In 2009, Jennifer Song had one of the greatest summers by a female amateur golfer, becoming only the seventh player in history – and second female – to claim multiple USGA championships in the same year, winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. She also was the low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open (T-13) and the runner-up at the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Song, 20, has spent most of her life in Korea, where her father is a university professor. She came back to the U.S. in the fall of 2008 to attend the University of Southern California, where she was a first-team All-America in her freshman season. On April 12, Song was named to the USA Curtis Cup Team (she holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Korea). She has announced that she’ll turn professional after the Match. USGA communications staff writer David Shefter recently chatted with Song about the Curtis Cup and other things golf.
What was your reaction to the phone call from the USGA on being named to the Curtis Cup team?
Song: A whole lot of fist-pumping. I had a huge smile on my face. I was super happy about it because I have always wanted to be on the team. I wanted to represent America. People were saying I might get picked, but I actually wanted to get a call. I was very desperate for it.
Was the wait starting to wear on you?
Song: I was hearing rumors since I had already told people that I was going to turn professional after the Curtis Cup … the USGA wasn’t going to pick me because I was going to turn pro. I was kind of sad when I heard that. I was kind of in my own world.
Your play hasn’t seemed to cool off since last summer, as your low-amateur effort at the Kraft [Nabisco Championship, where she tied for 21st] showed.
Song: I was really happy about the tournament because it was my first that I shot under par in a major event. Even though I struggled the third day, I was able to compete against the best players in the world. It was good to be part of it.
You have had excellent finishes at major championships. You tied for 13th at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, you shared low-amateur honors at the 2007 Women’s Open and now a strong effort at the Kraft. How will those efforts translate over to the pressure cooker of the Curtis Cup?
Song: Whenever I enter a tournament or team event, I never put pressure on myself. I just always tell myself it’s me against the course. I’m just going to give my best until I make my final putt at the 18th hole in the final round. Every shot counts, so I don’t want to give up on anything.Playing in the Kraft event and all the U.S. Opens, it just boosts my confidence. I’ve seen myself playing on challenging golf courses and I was able to make up and downs from a lot of different places. It gives me a chance to tell myself that I have the game.
It seems like ever since you broke through with the victory at last year’s WAPL, your game has gone to another level. Where is your game at right now?
Song: I have been playing a lot of tournaments so my body is a little tired. My full shots are kind of inconsistent, but I am working on it. Short-game wise, I am getting better and better every day.
What do you know about the Curtis Cup?
Song: I don’t know the history very well. I read it once when I went to the USGA Museum [last summer] about the Curtis sisters. Other than that, I know of several players who have played on the Curtis Cup team like Paula Creamer, Amanda Blumenherst and Jennie Lee … all these great players. They always talk about how great the Curtis Cup was and what an amazing experience it was for them to be part of the team and represent America. I really want to be part of it. That’s why I should look into the history more.
How much do you know about your Curtis Cup teammates?
Song: I love my team right now because I know them pretty well. Like Cydney Clanton [of Auburn University], I play with her a lot. Stephanie Kono [from USC rival UCLA], I play with her a lot during college competitions. Jessica Korda, I went to Argentina with her [in January for the Copa de las Americas] and we had a great time. We bonded. Alexis Thompson, I know she has a great game. I never have talked to her personally, but we always say hi. Kimberly Kim, I played with her two matches – the ’07 U.S. [Women’s] Am and the Public Links [final last summer]. I know how great a short game she has. Everybody has the capability to shoot low and win out there.
Tell me about your experience of going to Argentina for the Copa event. What was it like to represent the USA for the first time in an international competition?
Song: It was totally awesome. First of all, I was real excited about sitting in first class on the plane. It was really nice because first they asked me if I wanted ice cream. I said, Yeah, I’ll have some. I thought they were going to just give me plain vanilla ice cream. They said, What kind of ice cream do you want? I said, What kind do you have? After I chose, they also asked for toppings. And in the back [of the plane], I see the Canadian team in regular seats so I felt kind of bad because here I am in this first-class seat getting all the spoiling stuff that I need. It was awesome being able to bond with the guys’ team, Peter Uihlein and Nathan Smith. Everything was just so fun. Experiencing Argentina, I had never been there, so I created just another great chapter in my life.
With the World Amateur being held in Argentina this October, did you give any thought to staying amateur through the end of the year?
Song: I made the decision to turn pro before last winter. That was kind of in my head because turning pro is something that I had always wanted to do. It would have been wonderful for me to play in the World Am, but I just wanted to move on and compete with the best players.
What classes are you taking this semester at USC?
Song: I’m taking classes that really interest me. I’m taking occupational therapy and a stress management class. And psychology because I am interested in it. My final class is hip hop. I take it on Friday.
Does that require singing?
Song: Not singing. Dancing. We learn these choreographies from a professional and it’s really fun. You know golfers, when we are out on the course, we are always serious. Of course we move our bodies graciously when we swing our club but we don’t move our body parts. Hip hop class is really cool for me because I get to do all these cool movements.
Are you trying to get on Dancing With The Stars?
Song: No. That’s not an option.
Are you going to shed some tears after these final amateur appearances?
Song: It is sad. I have had a wonderful time with my [USC] teammates for almost two years, and my coach (Andrea Gaston) and faculty members. All the friends I meet in college life, it’s just sad to leave them behind. But life is all about saying hellos and good-byes. Definitely I am going to keep in touch with everyone. But I’ll be kind of emotional when we get to the final round at NCAAs.
With your dad being a professor and a strong proponent of academics, do you plan on eventually getting your degree?
Song: At some point if I want to get my degree I think I am going to want to come back [to school]. I told my dad, who knows. I might go back to school in my late 40s and I’ll be the only 40-something person in the class.
I understand you are flying back to Korea after the NCAAs. What is that for?
Song: After the NCAAs, I made this commitment with my [Korean] high school. They are going to do a fund-raising event and I am hosting it and doing a little clinic at a golf course. I have to fly back to Korea right after the NCAAs. It was a very hard decision for me because I knew there was going to be a [Curtis Cup] team practice during that time. I told Noreen Mohler, our captain, that I had made this decision to participate in the fund-raiser like 2½ months ago and it’s really hard to decline that now. But I heard that we are going to go [back to Essex County Club, site of the Match] on June 6. So hopefully I will get some good practices in at that time.
Was Captain Mohler OK with this scheduling conflict?
Song: She was very supportive and she understood that I have this strong, trusting bond with my high school and it’s just hard to break that [commitment]. It was a hard decision for both of us. But I was really happy with how she gave me permission to let me go.
Your game is very steady. Is there someone’s game on this team that matches up well with you for foursomes (alternate shot)?
Song: I don’t hit my driver that long, so I think it would be nice to have a [partner] who hits it long like Alexis Thompson or Jessica Korda. Any teammates that I am paired with, I think we’re going to have a blast. I think it’s going to be a good combination everywhere.
What is your schedule after the Curtis Cup? I know you are already exempt into the Women’s Open by virtue of your top-15 finish in 2009. What else is on your docket?
Song: I am going to go to Oakmont [near] Pittsburgh to get in some practice rounds because I have heard a lot of stories about how great it is. I am going to analyze what’s going on [with the set-up]. I am going to try to get some sponsor’s exemptions. I got an exemption from the State Farm Classic [in Springfield, Ill.], but it’s going to conflict with the Curtis Cup, so unfortunately, I won’t be able to participate in that [event]. Definitely I am going to write some letters so I can get some sponsor’s exemptions. It would be really great if I could get quite a few of them.
Do you eventually want to play in Korea or on the LPGA Tour?
Song: Mainly, I am going to play on the LPGA.
With so many Korean players on the LPGA Tour, you likely would feel right at home.
Song: Yeah. We’re just making a lot of golfers. [The country] has great talent. It’s just amazing to see how consistent and how great they are.
With the Curtis Cup in the Boston area, did you get a chance to see much of the city during last year’s WAPL that was held at Red Tail Golf Club in Devens? And what part of the city are you looking forward to seeing when you return for the Match in June?
Song: When I went to Boston, I visited Quincy Market. It was really pretty. I really want to go back to Quincy Market again because I love food.