U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Ganne Shows Resolve Well Beyond Her Years
June 5, 2021 | San Francisco, Calif.
By Ron Sirak
One of the truly compelling spectacles in championship golf is watching a great player compete without her best stuff, piecing it together with guts and grit, refusing to let a round get out of control. What’s not expected is to see that kind of resolve from a 17-year-old – at the U.S. Women’s Open, no less, on the weekend.
But don’t tell that to Megha Ganne. The 17-year-old amateur from New Jersey who has yet to start her senior year of high school put on a post-graduate display of passion and pride in Round 3 on Saturday in the face of the extreme demands of The Olympic Club.
Missing fairways, missing greens but making putts, Ganne ground out a 1-over-par 72 to stand at 3-under-par 210 after 54 holes, tied for third place with 2019 U.S. Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee6, just four strokes off the lead of Lexi Thompson and three behind Yuka Saso.
If the grind of the day got to Ganne, the teen hid it well. Not only did she never lose her composure while faced with erratic play that would have rattled even the most seasoned veteran, she embraced her adversity, at one point cupping her hand over her ear, calling for more cheers when the gallery roared as a lengthy bogey putt found the hole.
“I wish it wasn't over so quickly,” Ganne said after missing nine fairways and 11 greens but erasing most of her mistakes by using the putter only 25 times. “It's been so much fun. I can't wait to go back out there tomorrow and I'm already counting down the hours until I tee off again.”
Helped along by Michael Finn, her caddie who is a member of The Olympic Club and a scratch golfer himself, she kept her focus and never lost her humor. “She’s so confident,” Finn gushed, adding that she plays with a maturity far beyond her years. “She doesn’t get down. She’s just having fun.”
The teen was well aware that the gallery was on her side and used their energy when the grind got especially difficult – just like she imagined she would.
“I've always imagined myself engaging with the fans like that just because when I was younger and watching events, I knew I would love it when I would see the pros just even look at the crowd or smile or do anything like that, so I really wanted to embody that today and I got a chance to on a few holes, which was nice,” Ganne said.
Ganne began Saturday with four consecutive pars and when she turned the front nine 1 under par on the day, it appeared as if not only wasn’t she going to go away, she might actually make a run at the lead. Then the reality of the weekend at the U.S Women’s Open began to set in.
She missed the green on the first six holes of the second nine, making bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11, but remarkably ground out pars over the final seven holes. Of all the amazing golf Ganne has played this week, that stretch of play on the closing nine of the third round might be the most impressive – even more than her opening-round 67.
Again, showing a maturity beyond her years, Ganne displayed an understanding of the need to score well when you are not necessarily playing well. Golf is a much easier game when you are hitting on all cylinders and those voices of doubt aren’t running around in your head whispering words of doom.
“Four-day events, or ones that are even longer, you're not going to play your best four days in a row,” said Ganne, who has gone 37 for 37 on putts inside of 5 feet. “So just getting through those rounds or that one round that you didn't quite have it is key, because once you have one bad round my philosophy is that the next is obviously going to be the complete opposite.”
Asked when it occurred to her that she might win the U.S. Women’s Open, Ganne was once again refreshingly candid and supremely confident.
“Probably before I got here,” she said. “You can't really come into a tournament expecting to play well if you don't deep down know that you got a shot to win it. I guarantee you all 156 people in this field have thought about winning this championship and they just don't say it because they want to seem humble. But, yeah, it's been down there and hopefully I have a chance tomorrow.”
Megha may not match the feat of Catherine Lacoste who, in 1967, became the only amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open, but she’s already won the hearts of all watching. And the magic she displayed on Saturday makes dreams of an historic Sunday seem far from impossible. After all, a teenager can dream, can’t she?
Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.