Saturday Notebook: Jane Park One Cool Customer On The Golf Course

 

By David Shefter, USGA

 

Erie, Pa. Jane Park might be making her third championship-match appearance in a USGA amateur competition, but don't expect her to be a bundle of nerves at the first tee on Sunday.

 

Jane Park shows off some rare emotion during her semifinal victory over Sarah Huarte on Saturday. (Steve Gibbons/USGA)

Nothing seems to faze the 17-year-old from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Maybe school, but anxiety is certainly not prevalent on the golf course, where she's got that southern-California-cool persona. She just dons those sunglasses, white bucket hat and tees it up like she's competing with buddies at the local muni course.

 

“Sometimes I am, but I never show it,” said Park, a 2004 USA Curtis Cupper and the 2003 Women's Amateur runner-up.

 

On Sunday, Park will try to win her first USGA title when she takes on 20-year-old Amanda McCurdy of El Dorado, Ark., another player who plays without any intrepidation. McCurdy defeated Park's Curtis Cup teammate Paula Creamer, 6 and 4, while Park outlasted another Curtis Cupper, Sarah Huarte, 2 up.

 

Last month, Park lost a 20-hole thriller to Julieta Granada of Paraguay in the final of the U.S. Girls' Junior at Mira Vista Golf Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Last August, she nearly became the fifth 16-year-old to win the Women's Amateur, falling to another international player, Virada Nirapathpongporn of Thailand, 2 and 1, at Philadelphia Country Club in Gladwyne, Pa.

 

She won't get a foreigner on Sunday, but McCurdy is quite foreign to Park. She had never heard of the Arkansas junior-to-be before this week and has no knowledge of her game or talent.

 

“I think I have to play harder because I don't know what she's going to do,” said Park. “I don't know what her strengths are, what her weaknesses are, so I think it's just going to take a couple of holes tomorrow morning to see how she plays and if she's conservative or if she's aggressive.

 

“But I think if I play like I did today, or how I played when I beat Kim Shin [in the second round] when I shot six under for 14 holes that will be nice. But par is good. I think par will come out on top tomorrow.”

 

Special Outfit

 

Park has been saving her favorite golf attire for the championship match. It's a name-brand designer sleeveless navy-blue shirt that she hopes will bring her luck. Her ensemble will also include her trademark white bucket hat, sunglasses and her black golf shoes.

 

“I am wearing a very cut shirt tomorrow,” said a beaming Park.

 

An interviewer informed Park that her dad used to tell her that she shouldn't save any special shirts because you never know if you'll be eliminated before you get to wear them.

 

“Nope,” said Park. “I was confident.”

 

Support From Afar

 

Besides her father and her cousin, Jane Park had three other visitors come to Kahkwa to lend their support. Ed and Caroline Szklarz, who hosted the Parks at this year's U.S. Women's Open at The Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass., made the long trip from New England to northwestern Pennsylvania to see her play her semifinal match. The couple also brought their 13-year-old granddaughter, Stephanie.

 

Park said they might have dinner with them on Saturday night, eschewing their favorite eatery this week, Golden Corral, a buffet-style restaurant not far from their hotel. Park ate there again on Friday night and said the restaurant still hasn't figured out how to cook steak.

 

Tough Finish

 

Sarah Huarte's ball-striking was pretty solid all week, but her putter let the 2004 Curtis Cupper down late in the semifinals against Jane Park. (Steve Gibbons/USGA)

Sarah Huarte owned a 2-up lead on her Curtis Cup teammate, Jane Park, after 13 holes, but it all went downhill from there, especially on the greens. She bogeyed the par-5 14th to lose the hole to Park's five, and then three-putted the tricky par-3 16th from the front of the green sending the match back to all square.

 

At the downhill 16th hole, Huarte again three-putted from eight feet. She then missed a short par putt at 17 to win the hole and on 18, the 2004 NCAA Division I women's champion three-putted yet again from 12 feet, missing a 5-foot come-backer for par before conceding Park's short par putt.

She finished with 33 putts over the 18 holes and shot the equivalent of 5-over 41 on the back nine.

 

“I'm a streaky putter,” said Huarte, who also won the 2004 South Atlantic Women's Amateur in Florida. “Yesterday I putted really well. Today not so well. That's something I need to work on.”

 

Huarte now heads back to northern California to finish up course work so she can graduate from California-Berkeley this December. She is contemplating turning pro this fall and entering LPGA Tour Qualifying School, although she could enter that event as an amateur.

 

“It's been a great week,” said the 22-year-old Huarte. “Overall, I hit the ball better throughout the week. [Friday] was probably my best day (1-up win over Morgan Pressel). I'll just go home and try to remember yesterday.”

 

World Amateur Update

 

The Women's Committee of the USGA plans to have a conference call on Monday night to discuss the three-member team that will be heading to Puerto Rico for the Women's World Amateur Team Championship in late October. The Women's Amateur champion is virtually assured of a spot, which means either Jane Park or Amanda McCurdy will be on that squad.

 

Paula Creamer, who has had a solid summer, also is under heavy consideration along with Huarte and 14-year-old sensation Michelle Wie. The official announcement is expected sometime next week.

 

“Hopefully,” said Creamer of her wish to be selected. “Oh gosh yes [I want to play]. That would be a huge event for me to play in, especially in Puerto Rico representing your country once again. There wouldn't be a bigger honor than to do that.”

 

Exemptions

 

By reaching the championship match, Jane Park and Amanda McCurdy are exempt into the 2005 U.S. Women's Open at Cherry Hills Country Club in Englewood, Colo. (suburb of Denver), provided they remain an amateur. Park has played in the past two Women's Opens, making the cut in 2003 and missing this past year. The winner also gets an exemption into the 2006 Women's Open at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C., provided she remains an amateur.

 

The champion gets a 10-year exemption to the Women's Amateur, while the runner-up receives a three-exemption. The winner also receives a 10-year exemption into the Women's Amateur Public Links Championship, with the runner-up receiving a two-year exemption into the WAPL.

 

Champions In The House

 

Several USGA champions competed this week at the Women's Amateur, including seven-time winner Carol Semple Thompson (one Women's Amateur, two Women's Mid-Amateurs and four Senior Women's Amateurs) and one more showed up later in the week as part of the ESPN2 television broadcast team. Kay Cockerill won the Women's Amateur in 1986 and '87.

 

Also part of the team with play-by-play man Roger Twibell is Judy Rankin, the USGA's 2002 Bob Jones Award winner, and a participant in the 1971 U.S. Women's Open that was held at Kahkwa Club. The third analyst is Dottie Pepper, a member of the 1986 USA Curtis Cup team and a 19-time participant in the Women's Open.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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