U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Vaughn, Scavo Travel Oregon Trail to Olympic Berths
May 31, 2021 | San Francisco, Calif.
By David Shefter, USGA
As they strolled the tree-lined fairways of The Olympic Club on a Chamber-of-Commerce Monday in preparation for the 76th U.S. Women’s Open Championship, Kathleen Scavo and Monica Vaughn rekindled memories.
Stories and laughter flowed between shots on the iconic venue that has hosted five U.S. Opens and three U.S. Amateurs.
Three years ago, when Scavo, of Benicia, Calif., was a University of Oregon senior and Vaughn was a first-year assistant coach, the two enjoyed a strong player-coach relationship. Now a few years later, Scavo and Vaughn have become close friends, often playing golf or having dinner when the former returns to Eugene, where her brother-in-law, Casey Martin, serves as Oregon’s men’s golf coach.
When both earned medalist honors at their respective Women’s Open qualifiers on April 26, Scavo fired off the first text to Oregon women’s head coach Derek Radley.
“Coach Mo is just so annoying,” Scavo wrote after seeing that Vaughn had posted rounds of 63-71 just 24 hours after returning from the Pacific-12 Conference Championship at Stanford. “She’s just so good.”
By 6 a.m. the next day, the two were planning practice rounds.
That led Vaughn to recall all of the Scavo-isms from their one year together.
“When your ball is in the rough here is like when the chef brings out your food and says, bon appétit,” said Vaughn. “And then he opens up [the platter] and it’s an eyeball.”
Another Scavo term: very rich cheesecake.
“If a person is high energy, they are like a very rich cheesecake that you can’t finish,” said Scavo.
That description perfectly fits Vaughn. Full of energy and positive vibes, Vaughn has an infectious personality. Given Vaughn’s collegiate résumé, which included winning the 2017 NCAA individual title as well as helping Arizona State to the team championship, many thought that she would have joined Scavo in the play-for-pay ranks.
Virtually every player with such lofty credentials wants to chase fame and fortune on the LPGA Tour. Vaughn had other ideas.
“I’m not surprised,” said Scavo of Vaughn. “It’s her choice. It’s her life. Eventually I would like to get into the coaching ranks, too.”
The day before the first stage of 2018 LPGA Tour Qualifying School, Vaughn, who had played in one LPGA tournament on a sponsor’s exemption and one mini-tour event, withdrew and took a job as a server at a popular Scottsdale, Ariz., steakhouse.
When Radley left the University of Arizona in 2018 to take the job at Oregon, he asked Wildcats head coach Laura Ianello about hiring Vaughn as an assistant. She thought Vaughn would be a perfect fit. After consulting with ASU women’s coach Missy Farr-Kaye, Vaughn had lunch with Radley, who immediately offered her the position. A native of the small coastal town of Reedsport, Ore., Vaughn has loved every moment in her role.
“It was never the end goal, even throughout college,” said Vaughn, 26, who represented the USA in the 2016 Curtis Cup Match in Ireland. “Halfway through my senior year, I said I am definitely not going to [turn professional].”
Coaching has given Vaughn a chance to help and develop young talent, and also rekindled her love for amateur golf. She is still able to compete at a high level without needing to convert a 5-footer to make ends meet.
Practice and the occasional round with her players or boyfriend Justin Fisher, Oregon’s associate athletic director for development, keeps the competitive juices flowing.
The talent certainly has not gone away. During a college fundraiser at Eugene Country Club last October, Vaughn shot a 58 from the forward tees.
“I don’t have all those pressures and stresses,” said Vaughn. “Golf has become a lot more fun for me.”
The Women’s Open qualifier became Exhibit A. With four of her players in the field, Vaughn hit 30 greens in regulation and played some of the best golf of her life at the Oregon Golf Association Course in Woodburn, Ore. When she completed 36 holes at 10-under-par 134, the five Oregon players held their assistant aloft for a photo that was posted to Instagram.
“My high level of play is really what’s earning their respect,” said Vaughn, who is only four years removed from college. “If I want them to learn from me instead of just listening to me barking instructions at them, I have to go out and do it myself.”
While this week’s results won’t have any effect on Vaughn’s bottom line – “I’m still getting a paycheck [from Oregon] no matter what” – it is a potentially big four days for Scavo. Since turning pro after graduating in 2019, Scavo, who won a pair of California Junior Amateurs and qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at 16 (missed cut), has struggled to find footing. Scavo, 23, did win a pair of tournaments on the Arizona-based Cactus Tour in the fall of 2019, but with COVID-19 canceling so many events in 2020, she has yet to gain status on either the developmental Symetra Tour or the LPGA Tour.
Her previous U.S. Women’s Open experience should help, as will familiarity with the course. Raised just 45 minutes from the club, Scavo was able to sneak in a few early practice rounds, thanks to a few members.
Conversations with Martin and others have also been integral to her preparation.
“I’ve gotten a few points, but you’ve got to play it to understand it,” said Scavo, who reached the Round of 16 in the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes with Lucy Li in 2015, then got into this championship in the same qualifier as Li, at nearby Half Moon Bay Golf Links. “I am excited to be out here.”
Added Vaughn: “Scavo has a lot of talent. She’s not the longest player in the world, but when she gets on fire, she can really light it up. She has incredible touch around the greens and the bunkers. Like all of us, if she can get it in the fairway off the tee, she’ll set herself up for a good week.”
Maybe the first weekend of June will even lead to a new Scavo-ism.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.