By David Shefter and Rhonda Glenn, USGA
Oakmont, Pa. – Jennifer Song had a lot of assistance in becoming the golfer she is today. Whether it was financial aid from parents or wisdom from coaches and teachers, the 20-year-old is fully appreciative of the help.
Which is why the two-time USGA champion is donating one-third of all her professional winnings to charity.
Song recently purchased a domain name on the Internet and plans to set up a charitable foundation through the website. And whatever town she is competing in, she will seek a local organization, whether it’s junior golf or something unrelated to sports.
A lot of people helped me out along the way, said Song, who turned professional a week after leading the USA to victory at the 2010 Curtis Cup Match at Essex County Club in early June. Success doesn’t come alone and I knew I had the support that other girls didn’t have. I have a great family. I felt like other people need to get those chances. Even though it is not much, I am sure it will help.
Song certainly cashed in on her first opportunity. She shot a final-round 61 in winning her pro debut at a Duramed Futures Tour event in Decatur, Ill., then followed that up with a top-five showing at the Futures event in Hammond, Ind. After two events, she already has earned $21,525 and ranks 15th on the money list. The top 10 finishers earn LPGA Tour cards for the 2011 season.
It was awesome, said Song about her victory. I was very excited and I transferred that spiritual energy towards the game.
From the NCAAs, and even from the Curtis Cup, my putting was super hot and I just knew I had to take that feeling to my first professional event, and that’s exactly what I did.
This will be Song’s fourth U.S. Women’s Open, but first as a pro. She shared low-amateur honors in 2007 and tied for 13th last year at Saucon Valley Country Club, easily earning low amateur and a spot in this year’s field (top 15 and ties qualified). She also joined Pearl Sinn (1988) as the only females to claim two USGA titles in one year, winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur. Earlier this year, she decided to leave the University of Southern California after two years.
And Song has wasted no time getting used to Oakmont. She has already played the course eight times in the last week. She also snuck in a few practice rounds prior to the Curtis Cup. At this rate, she could be a member.
Everything is about placement and making two putts, said Song of the strategy. And if I get lucky to make a [birdie] putt, then I’ll be the happiest girl in the world.
Special Trophy Presentation At Oakmont
Most people realize this isn’t the first U.S. Women’s Open being contested at Oakmont Country Club.
At the 1992 Women’s Open at Oakmont, a significant gift was presented to the USGA just prior to the competition. That night 18 years ago, Phyllis Semple and her children, who included seven-time USGA champion Carol Semple Thompson, presented a permanent Women’s Open trophy to the USGA. The warm, convivial dinner gathering inside Oakmont’s gracious clubhouse seemed almost like family night at the Semples.
After all, it’s their neighborhood. The Sewickley residents who are famous for all they have given to the game presented the trophy in honor of the late Harton S. Semple, Phyllis’ husband and the father of their five children.
Bud Semple was a past president of the USGA and a faithful advocate for women’s golf, providing encouragement throughout the years to Carol, her siblings and to Phyllis, a fine player who once reached the U.S. Women’s Amateur quarterfinals. When Carol won the 1973 U.S. Women's Amateur, in fact, Bud was USGA vice president and had the pleasure of presenting the Robert Cox Trophy to his daughter.
We’ve been waiting a long time to get our hands on one of these, Bud joked then. In 1992, Patty Sheehan won the Women’s Open, the first recipient to be given the trophy donated in Bud Semple’s name. Sheehan, too, had waited a long time to get her hands on one of those. She defeated Juli Inkster in an 18-hole Monday playoff.
Last year Phyllis Semple died after a long, happy life in the game. Carol Semple Thompson continues the family legacy of giving back, serving as the general chairman for the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open.
Back On The Bag
Greg Puga, the 2000 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, has known Lizette Salas since she was a young girl just starting in the game. In fact, Salas was in the background when Sports Illustrated did a photo shoot with Puga in Azusa, Calif., after his Mid-Amateur victory. While Puga has turned pro and does some teaching on the side, he doesn’t work with Salas. But the two Southern California natives have become close friends and last year Puga caddied for Salas at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, where she lost a second-round match to Song, her University of Southern California teammate and the eventual champion.
Puga didn’t caddie for Salas two weeks ago at the Women’s Amateur Public Links, but his schedule -- he is still trying to Monday qualify for Nationwide Tour events -- allowed him to be at Oakmont for Salas’ Women’s Open debut.
She’s hitting it solid, said Puga. She’ll be all right.
Salas, who last year suffered through back and knee issues, said she is 100 percent healthy.
When asked to describe Oakmont, she only had one word, Brutal!
If you don’t keep it in the fairway… and put it in the right spots on the greens, said Puga.
Even if you do [put in the fairway] … it’s hard, added Salas, who was eliminated in the WAPL two weeks ago by future teammate and roommate Lisa McCloskey, the eventual runner-up, who is transferring to USC in the fall.
Virtually all of the groupings and starting times for the 2010 Women’s Open were done randomly, although there are a few traditional groupings such as the reigning U.S. Women’s Open (Eun-Hee Ji) and Women’s British Open (Catriona Matthew) champions playing with the current U.S. Women’s Amateur champion (Song).
So Stephanie Kono and Tiffany Joh, one a current and the other a former UCLA All-American, were pleasantly surprised to be grouped together for the first two rounds.
It’s going to be fun, said a beaming Kono, a member of the victorious 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team.
Our coach at UCLA (Carrie Forsyth) said to play it like another qualifier, said Joh, a two-time WAPL champion (2006 and 2008) who was a member of the 2008 victorious USA Curtis Cup Team. It’s a little different than another qualifier.
I don’t know what to expect. Hopefully it will be more comfortable. At the same time, the last thing you want at an Open is to be chatting it up and then you find yourself in one of those Church Pew bunkers. I have to be extra careful that I don’t get too relaxed.
Joh is in the midst of playing 11 consecutive weeks. She just finished five straight Futures Tour events and has five more after the Women’s Open.
But after eight attempts at qualifying, she finally made it into a Women’s Open.
I think I have been trying since I was 15, said the 23-year-old Joh, who turned pro last summer after a four-year career at UCLA.
Then again, Oakmont is a far cry from Crooked Creek, the London, Ky., venue for last week’s Futures event.
The greens last week were like this, said Joh, pointing to the grass framing the manicured Oakmont driving range. I kind of knew what to expect. I had heard about the [Oakmont] greens. I Google Earthed it last night.
I remember watching the coverage of the [U.S.] Open here [in 2007]. If you are above the hole, it’s completely over.
Back In The Saddle
After losing in the 36-hole final of the WAPL 10 days ago, Lisa McCloskey was right back at it, trying to figure out the nuances of Oakmont C.C. She spend a few days recovering at her parents’ condominium in Michigan before making the quick trek to western Pennsylvania, arriving on Saturday night to begin preparations for her first Women’s Open.
Obviously, I would have liked to win, said the 18-year-old McCloskey after completing her second full practice round. It would have given me a little more confidence. I played well last week. Unfortunately, Emily [Tubert] just had a bunch of birdies.
The Houston, Texas, resident, who recently transferred from Pepperdine to USC where she’ll be a junior this fall, does like what she has seen so far at Oakmont.
This course fits my game well, said McCloskey, owner of the NCAA 54-hole scoring record (199), which she set two years ago. You don’t have to make a ton of birdies. Even par is really, really good. I think it will be good for me.
As for enjoying the Women’s Open experience, McCloskey is absorbing everything, from signing autographs to watching the big-name professionals practice and prepare.
I get to experience big-time golf, said McCloskey.
McCloskey said she was thinking of transferring from Pepperdine last summer, but decided to give it another year. Had she left after the 2008-09 season, the Waves would have been down to four players. But while she had a successful sophomore campaign, McCloskey felt making the move to USC was the right decision.
They have an amazing group of coaches at USC, said McCloskey, who graduated high school a year early when her parents moved from Texas to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The team is going to be really strong.