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McGill Finds Perfect Match With Local Caddie

By Tom Mackin

| Sep 13, 2017 | PORTLAND, Ore.

Lisa McGill (left) and caddie Jonah Pemberton, 19, quickly developed a bond this week in the Senior Women's Amateur. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Senior Women's Amateur Home

Jonah Pemberton now has bragging rights among the caddies for a while at Waverley Country Club. He was one of 12 locals – five women and seven men – who nabbed bags at the 56th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship. But none advanced further in the championship with their player than he did.

After working with Rebecca Branson, of Indianapolis, Ind., who failed to advance to match play, the 19-year-old Pemberton was paired with 58-year-old Lisa McGill, of Philadelphia, Pa.

The duo gelled instantly on Monday and began an impressive run that included a 2-and-1 win over Anna Schultz (the 2007 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur champion), a win over

Jane Fitzgerald in 19 holes, and a 5-and-4 win over Lynne Cowan.

The streak ended Wednesday in the quarterfinals after McGill lost, 2 and 1, to Judith Kyrinis of Canada.

But the experience for both player and caddie was memorable.

“It was a blast,” said Pemberton. “We kind of had fun with it and enjoyed ourselves.”

“I said to the caddiemaster on Monday, ‘Do you have somebody that can read these greens?’” said McGill, who pushed a cart during stroke play. “But of course Jonah did much, much more than that. We just had a great time.”

“We were reading yardages together, picking clubs together and talking a lot,” said Pemberton.

His local knowledge increased McGill’s confidence on the greens. “I wouldn't have made some putts if Jonah hadn't said, ‘No, let's do this,’” said McGill. “So that was essential, because it is all about the putting here.”

“Jonah’s a great kid,” said Mike Vandehey, assistant caddiemaster and bag room manager at Waverley Golf Club. “He started in the bag room in April, but he’s a great golfer (about a 3.0 Handicap Index®) and he wanted to start caddieing. He picked it up right away and the members love having him on their bag. Now he’s working part time here this fall and winter while going to school.”

Despite a 39-year age difference, the pair chatted easily about numerous topics.

“I know you need to focus, and I always focus on top of the shot, but there's a lot of time in between,” said McGill. “We talked about golf, the state of Oregon. Nothing too serious.”

The national championship was the highest level of golf Pemberton has experienced so far, but he credited McGill for making it seem easy.

“She was the least nervous person, I guarantee, out there,” he said. “It was never like, ‘we have to do this, or we have to do this.’ When we got beat because she (Kyrinis) got a birdie, we were just like, we made par, so be it, on to the next one. There was never a time of frustration. We never were silent walking down the fairway because of something. We just proceeded on and enjoyed ourselves.”

McGill has played in more than 30 USGA championships. Her best finish came in the 2007 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, where she was a semifinalist and lost to eventual champion Meghan (Bolger) Stasi. Her best previous finish in the U.S Senior Women’s Amateur was reaching the Round of 16 in 2013 at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif.

“I would say I drove the ball well, and my short game was good,” she said of her performance this week. “My putting was great. I think if you ask anybody here…”

“That's the key,” said Pemberton.

“The putting has to be on to do well here,” said McGill. “Because as one of the members said, you have to putt up before it goes down, right? There is no just ‘straight that way.’ And they're very subtle. You do have to use your imagination.”

“When you get close to the hole, you can't over-read,” said Pemberton. “A lot of people over-read close to the hole, and I think when she started making them yesterday, we were more going just at it and hitting them firm, and they just started rolling in.”

McGill’s pre-championship goal was to make it to the third round. “I made four, so that was good. I love not having to qualify next year,” said McGill, who is exempt next year by virtue of making the quarterfinals.

Although disappointed to not advance further, both McGill and her caddie are ready for a break.

“It's a lot of golf,” said McGill. “If you make the finals, it's 10 rounds of golf (including practice rounds). I'm OK to put them (her clubs) down for a couple days.

“I wanted to keep going, but I'm tired,” said Pemberton. 

Tom Mackin is an Arizona-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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