Bandon, Ore. – On Friday night, Ani Gulugian was celebrating, having won a city golf title and getting the chance to spend some down time with her friends.
Tuesday night, Gulugian found herself preparing for the match-play portion of the 35th U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
What transpired in between was a frenetic 96 hours.
On Friday, Gulugian, 19, a UCLA sophomore from Irvine, Calif., won the Long Beach Women's City Championship in a one-hole playoff. Afterward, she would credit the return of better ball striking as the difference maker.
"I lost my feel during the season and I'm beginning to get it back," Gulugian told the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
Even though Gulugian had been an alternate in U.S. Women’s Public Links qualifying at Goose Creek Golf Club in Mira Loma, Calif., on May 24, she had little reason to believe she might be called to play.
I was like, 'OK, everybody is going to Publinks, I guess I’ll stay home and practice and prepare for the [U.S. Women’s] Am qualifier.' I finally got to hang out with my best friend and that was awesome.
On Saturday, while she was spending time with a friend, Gulugian’s mother called, suggesting she come home. Her mother had called the USGA and was told that there were three alternate spots available and that there were no alternates on-site.
Gulugian debated whether to travel to Bandon, knowing she could get there, not receive the call to play and then return home. Sunday night, Gulugian caught the last flight into Bend, drove over to Bandon and bunked with some of her UCLA teammates — four of whom were already in the field.
There was a hitch. Gulugian arrived sans suitcase and clubs, which were delayed in transit.
I went to bed hoping they would be there in the morning, she said.
No such luck on the baggage, but good fortune on the morning phone call to get into the field.
Gulugian stepped on the first tee at 8:20 a.m. at Old Macdonald wearing her friend’s ill-fitting clothes and her sneakers, and playing with a set of Miura clubs that were not the proper length or the right loft.
Playing Old Macdonald sight unseen and in windy and rainy conditions, Gulugian ground out a 6-over 77 on a day when the field scoring average was 82.58 — more than 11 strokes over par.
Yesterday was just an interesting day because I didn’t know what to expect, seeing as I hadn’t played any practice rounds, said Gulugian, who finished ninth in qualifying at the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and advanced to the third round of match play. She also qualified for the U.S. Women's Open and the U.S. Women's Amateur, missing the cut in each.
So I just had to trust where my caddie told me to hit it. And then I just used my creativity around the greens. And that was good.
A sense of normalcy began to return on Monday when her baggage arrived after her round had already started.
It was interesting on the range [Tuesday morning] because it was like, 'Oh, I can actually swing these clubs and I actually know what I’m doing,' said Gulugian, who posted four top-10 finishes in UCLA’s NCAA Championship season, including a T8 at the NCAA Central Regional.
She would post a 2-over-par 73 at Bandon Trails in near-perfect conditions. Her two-round 8-over 150 score tied her for 12th in stroke play. Cheyenne Woods was medalist with a 1-under 141 score.
I missed pretty much every putt I looked at today, so that was kind of disappointing and frustrating. But I hung in there, she said.
Now she advances to match play.
I’m just going into it with the same attitude that I’ve had, Gulugian said. I don’t really have any expectation, just going to take it one shot at a time.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA websites.