Barrington, R.I. – Around the state of Wisconsin, the Danielson name resonates among the high school golf community the way the Kennedys once ruled Massachusetts politics.
For the last six years, a Danielson has claimed the state girls’ championship – four straight by Lindsay (2005-08) and the last two by younger sister Casey. Even brother Charlie has gotten into the act by winning the boys’ title in 2010.
For a family that comes from tiny Osceola, population 2,500 and 4½ hours northwest of the state capitol of Madison, it’s quite an impressive feat.
But 16-year-old Casey is raising the family profile even higher at this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rhode Island Country Club. Two victories on Thursday, including a third-round 19-hole decision over Duke University first-team All-American Lindy Duncan, vaulted her into Friday’s quarterfinals against No. 3 seed and 17-year-old Moriya Jutanugarn, who earned low-amateur honors at the Women’s Open last month.
For the wide-eyed high school junior, the run into the final eight at America’s oldest women’s championship almost seems too good to be true. But don’t let the adolescent face fool you: Danielson is showing plenty of moxie on the 100-year-old Donald Ross layout.
Case in point was what transpired at the 18th hole against Duncan.
She easily could have crumbled after a bogey – she pull-hooked a 5-wood over the green and missed a 12-foot par putt – which sent the match to an extra hole, the par-4 first.
But she quickly re-focused and ripped a monstrous drive past Duncan, knocked a gap wedge to 15 feet and calmly holed the birdie putt. When Duncan failed to convert from a similar distance, the celebration was on.
Hugs from dad/caddie Craig and mom ensued. Even the Golf Channel cameras followed her around the green as she accepted congratulations.
It really hasn’t sunk in yet, said Danielson. [To me] it’s just another round of golf against a great player. That’s my mindset. One shot at a time. One match at a time.
The day actually belonged to Wisconsin golf, what with native sons Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly going 1-2 in the first round of the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Stricker shot a 63 and Kelly a 65.
As for Danielson, it's been a watershed summer. She finished third at last week’s PGA Junior Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind., carding a first-round 68. She also has three other top-10 American Junior Golf Association finishes, including a tie for sixth at the ANNIKA Invitational at the Reunion Resort in Florida. She tied for 10th at both the Rolex Girls Championship (Somerby G.C. in Byron, Minn.) and Rolex Tournament of Champions at the Crosswater Course at the Sunriver (Ore.) Resort.
At last month’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, she fell in the first round – It was an off day for me, she said.
Even last year she showed positive signs, qualifying for the Women’s Amateur at Charlotte (N.C.) Country Club and missing the cut by two strokes after a disappointing second-round 80. Two weeks earlier, she had lost in the second round of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at The Country Club of North Carolina in The Village of Pinehurst.
So the foundation had been started. Now she seems to be building upon it.
And if she was awestruck by all the assembled talent here at Rhode Island C.C., Danielson isn’t showing it.
I’d say it almost gives me confidence that I can do this, said Danielson, who plans to start looking at colleges this fall. Playing with these great players [shows] I can compete with them. It’s pushing me to get better.
Back in Osceola, this has to be front-page news. The Mississippi River border town features one stoplight, a bowling alley, a Dairy Queen, a Subway and one public golf course.
Sometimes, Danielson and her siblings will drive to the neighboring town to play and practice at a more-established golf facility. In the spring, the family vacations in Palm Desert to get away from the harsh Wisconsin winter. Casey’s dad, Craig, who is serving as her caddie this week, has been the main swing coach for the siblings. A banker by trade, Craig has been playing the game since he was a kid and has been influential in his kids’ love of the game.
He’s a big help, said of having her father on her bag this week. He’s been able to get out with me more and more to help me with my swing and my game. There’s not many tournaments where he gets to caddie for me.
As for older sister Lindsay who plays at the University of Wisconsin, she was featured in Sports Illustrated for her high school golf exploits. She also got into USA Today two years ago for winning the Student Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year Award (SAMMY), an honor given to 25 high school student-athletes for achievement in athletics, academics and community service. Lindsay was chosen for golf and met Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner and Olympic skater Michele Kwan.
Casey hasn’t quite achieved the same media attention.
Then again, three more wins at the Women’s Amateur will top anything her siblings have ever accomplished on the course.
And it will just add to their Wisconsin golf legacy.
David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.