Pressel Upstages Fellow Teens

Two-time Women's Open Competitor Posts 69 In First Round Of Stroke-Play Qualifying

 

By David Shefter, USGA

 

Erie, Pa. – Remember Morgan Pressel? Wasn't it just three years ago that this young 13-year-old became the darling of the 2001 U.S. Women's Open?

 

Apparently the golf world is suffering from attention deficit disorder. Pressel, now 16 and with the braces long since removed and a few inches taller, has almost become yesterday's news. And she hasn't even graduated from high school.

 

While the local media featured teenagers Michelle Wie (14) and 17-year-old Californians Jane Park and Paula Creamer – all three members of the 2004 USA Curtis Cup squad – Pressel seemed to be a mere afterthought on the eve of the 104th U.S. Women's Amateur.

No headlines, no interviews, no sound bites.

 

“I am looking through the local paper and they have huge spreads on ‘Teen Machines' and everything else and my name was not even in there,” said the Boca Raton, Fla., resident who has already competed in two U.S. Women's Opens, the last in 2003 at Pumpkin Ridge outside of Portland, Ore., where she was tied for fourth after a first-round 70. She finished 52nd with three consecutive 78s. “But oh well. I'm shocked. I am so much better than I was three years ago.”

 

That was evident on Monday at The Kahkwa Club when Pressel, playing in the first group off the 10th tee, posted the second best round of the day on the 6,365-yard Donald Ross layout, a 3-under-par 69 that featured five birdies and an eagle to go with four bogeys.

Tania Elosegui of Spain shot a 68 in the afternoon. No other player broke 70.

 

But the round should not have surprised anyone who has closely monitored Pressel's success this summer. At the prestigious North and South Women's Amateur at the famous Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort and Golf Club, Pressel became that event's youngest winner, defeating 2000 U.S. Girls' Junior champion Lisa Ferrero in the championship match. She followed that up with a victory at the Rolex Tournament of Champions at the Crosswater Course in Sunriver, Ore. That competition is one of the biggest on the American Junior Golf Association circuit. She also won an AJGA event in San Antonio, Texas.

 

Two weeks ago, she lost in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Girls' Junior, falling to Jane Park, 1 up. Park also beat her in the third round of the 2002 Girls' Junior in a 21-hole thriller.

 

“Not bad, pretty good,” Pressel said of her summer.

 

It's a far cry from last August when Pressel had to withdraw from the Women's Amateur at Philadelphia Country Club the morning of the first round of stroke-play qualifying. The health of her mother, Kathy, took a turn for the worse and on Sept. 4, she died from breast cancer. The death also forced Pressel to withdraw from the Junior Solheim Cup in Sweden.

 

But Pressel has rebounded quite nicely from the tragedy. Her grandfather, Herb Krickstein, accompanies her to golf competitions and the adversity has only made Pressel stronger emotionally.

 

“It definitely motivated me,” said Pressel. “It was maybe something I needed, to be motivated. I inherited my competitive fire from my mother and from grandpa.”

 

Herb Krickstein knows all about competitive sports. His son, Aaron Krickstein, starred for many years on the professional tennis circuit. And now he sees a lot of Aaron 's competitive fire in his granddaughter.

 

“She has a big heart,” Herb Krickstein said.

 

Three years ago at Pine Needles, Pressel drew Michelle Wie-like galleries during the first two rounds of the Women's Open when she became, at age 13, the youngest qualifier in the history of that championship.

Pressel did not make the cut, but her week was filled with answering questions from the media and signing plenty of autographs. Later that summer, she reached the semifinals of the Girls' Junior, losing to eventual champion Nicole Perrot.

 

Fast forward to 2004 and Pressel's moment at that Women's Open is all but forgotten. But at the 2003 Girls' Junior, Pressel defeated Wie in the third round before running into another hot 13-year-old, Mina Harigae, who won in 19 holes.

 

“Oh yeah definitely,” said Pressel when asked if the lack of publicity drives her to play harder. “I was thinking about that as I was walking down [my last hole]. Maybe they'll put my name in the paper tomorrow.”

 

Perhaps, they'll even be a headline.

 

David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions and comments at dshefter@usga.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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