Friday Notebook: Park Arrives Early, Leaves Course Early In Win Over Kim
By David Shefter, USGA
Roswell, Ga. – Angela Park had run out of options at her hotel. She doesn’t swim and apparently daytime soap operas or talk shows aren’t part of her television viewing.
So the 16-year-old decided to come to the Settindown Creek Course of Ansley Golf Club a bit early on Friday. How about two hours prior to her scheduled 1:45 p.m. quarterfinal match with stroke-play medalist In-Kyung Kim at the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“There’s nothing to do at the hotel,” said Park. “And I can’t swim. It’s not good for my golf swing.”
Park, who lives in Torrance, Calif., but was born in Brazil and still has citizenship in the South American country, decided it was the right time to get in some extra practice. She was, after all, playing the reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion and a player who had posted two dramatic extra-hole victories on Thursday to reach the round of eight.
“I came out here … and started putting,” said Park. “I knew it was going to be a tough match and I knew she is a really good player. So I didn’t get really nervous because I didn’t really think about her. I said I would try to play my own game.”
Park wound up leaving the golf course quite early as well, making five birdies over her first nine holes en route to a 3-and-2 victory. In four matches this week, Park has yet to play the 18th hole and she’s finished three of them before reaching 17.
That didn’t happen two weeks ago at the Girls’ Junior in Idaho, where Park shot a second-round 63 to earn the No. 2 seed during qualifying but got an unexpected early trip home in a first-round loss to 14-year-old Kristina Wong. Wong was here this week as the youngest competitor but failed to qualify for match play.
Park believed she was thinking too much about her opponent and not enough about playing her game. So she took the approach that her opponent was going to execute each shot to perfection. She assumed every putt would be holed, no matter what the length.
The approach has worked so far. By beating Kim, she denied the 17-year-old from becoming the first player to win the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur in the same year.
Park played the 16 holes in the equivalent of three under par with the usual match-play concessions, finishing with six birdies, two bogeys and one double bogey. But that hot start gave her a 4-up lead at the turn (she got it to 5 up after 11) before Kim made a slight run at the end, only to run out of holes.
“She made a lot of birdies,” said Kim of Park’s performance. “I was tired. This morning I had a headache. My swing was good, but I didn’t make the putts. That was the problem.”
Park spent the first eight years of her life in Brazil before moving to California to be with her three older brothers and father. Her brothers came over for school and Angela tagged along and eventually picked up golf. The progression has come quite fast in just eight years and the Women’s Amateur is her sixth USGA competition and fourth of 2005 (Girls’ Junior, Women’s Amateur Public Links and Women’s Open), with her best finish coming at the WAPL in Kansas City, Mo., where she was co-medalist and advanced to the second round. She was a semifinalist at the 2004 WAPL.
Park’s mom remains back in Brazil to run an embroidery factory that the family owns.
“Mommy works and daddy takes care of Angela,” she said laughing. “Actually, I think it’s actually more stressing taking care of me.”
Park also speaks three languages: English, Portuguese (official language of Brazil) and Korean, which is the native country of her parents. During the match against Kim, Park discovered that her opponent’s caddie also had spent two years in Brazil and spoke Portuguese.
“He lived there for two years and he’s pretty good,” she said. “He’s better than me.”
Third Add Park
Park plans to finish her final year of high school in Torrance and then will enter LPGA Tour Qualifying School in the fall of 2006. While her brothers tried college and once is attending a culinary arts cooking school, she feels the time is right to turn pro after graduation. “I actually made up my mind last year,” she said.
Alison Whitaker has picked up a lot of support from the public this week, but fellow Aussie and Women’s Amateur participant Kristie Newton has been with her since match play began on Wednesday.
If the name has a familiar ring it’s because Newton, 26, is the daughter of 1975 British Open runner-up Jack Newton. Newton lost a playoff 30 years ago to Tom Watson at Carnoustie. Watson went on to win four more British Opens and Newton would have an unfortunate accident in 1983 at the Sydney airport when he lost an arm and an eye when he was struck by the propeller of a Cessna aircraft.
Since then Newton has operated the highly successful Jack Newton Golf Foundation in Sydney. The non-profit organization conducts tournaments for youths and offers assistance to players who don’t have the means to compete. One product of the program is 2003 U.S. Amateur champion Nick Flanagan, who has since turned pro. And it’s where Kristie got her start.
“He runs it for nothing and makes money for junior golf, so that these kids have something to play in,” said Newton. “Ali has actually played in a few of his events as well. He’s got a couple of international ones where players come over.”
Newton and Whitaker play out of the same Victoria Golf Club and are teammates in pennants, which are matches against other clubs in Australia. Newton said they are similar to competitions between American universities although the players can vary in their ages. The club is 30 minutes outside of Melbourne where Newton works as a graphic designer.
This summer, she took time off to travel to the U.S. and Britain for competitions. She and Whitaker both played the British Ladies Open Amateur and the Women’s Western Amateur. This week, they are rooming together at the home of Patrick and Paula Adamson. The Adamsons bought the duo an Australian flag, which Newton has wrapped around her waist as a skirt.
“I’m trying to keep her as normal as possible,” said Newton of Whitaker who posted a 1-up victory over 15-year-old Maria Uribe of Colombia in the quarters on Friday. “But I know now what everybody else has to go through when they watch me. It’s been pretty tough because I would have liked to have been playing myself. But if I can get her over the line by wearing these foolish outfits then I will. Luckily I’ve got shorts on underneath. I’m going to have to do some washing because I am starting to run out of clothes because of this heat.”
Newton would like to be in the gallery for two more days. Two more wins by Whitaker and she would join countrymen Walter Travis, Karrie Webb, Jan Stephenson, David Graham, Graham Marsh and Flanagan in the USGA championship victory circle. Anne-Marie Knight lost in the final of the 1995 U.S. Women’s Amateur to Kelli Kuehne.
“This morning she was getting a lot of messages from everyone, but no one famous yet,” said Newton. “She was hoping for one from [popular Australian singer] Missy Higgins.”
When Flanagan won the U.S. Amateur, he received a telegram from Greg Norman and other well-wishers.
“Depends if you call my mom well known,” laughed Whitaker. “I had to turn my phone off this morning because I was getting inundated with messages.”
When asked who she would like to hear from, Whitaker didn’t hesitate: “Adam Scott. I’m still waiting for Adam Scott to call me.”
Has she ever met the famous young PGA Tour star? “No, I haven’t. But I wouldn’t complain if I did.”
Food For Thought
Whitaker was asked what she does and doesn’t like about being in the U.S. She loves the people and how well she has been treated at every stop along the way, whether it’s been Indiana for the Women’s Western, Chicago for Women’s Amateur qualifying or Colorado, where she competed in two events prior to coming to Atlanta.
Her dislikes include the food.
“Too much junk food,” said Whitaker, who has a nutritionist back at the Victorian Institute of Sport that has her on a diet that is high in protein and carbohydrates but low in sugary foods. “Hopefully I won’t hurt too many people’s feelings. I just find it harder to eat well over here. It’s hard to eat healthy. I’ve been finding it hard to stick to my meal plan over here. When we Australians come over here, they generally gain a bit of weight because of that. But luckily I haven’t [gained any weight], so I still fit into my clothes, which is great.
“It’s really just kind of all about sustenance.”
Shots Of The Day
Maru Martinez of Venezuela was faced with what looked to be a difficult approach shot to the par-4 eighth green in her match against Jenny Suh of Fairfax, Va. With Suh already safely on the green, Martinez punched a screaming line drive from the right rough that headed straight at the pond fronting the green. The ball skipped once and sailed onto the green 25 feet from the flag. Suh missed her long birdie putt before Martinez holed hers for a 2-up lead. She would go on to win in 19 holes.
“I am not going to lie to you, but it was a bit lucky,” said Suh.
Martinez didn’t stop there. Facing elimination at 18, she stuck a wedge to within a few feet of the hole for a birdie to force extra holes.
At the 19th hole, the par-5 10th, she could only advance her second shot from the rough to 175 yards from the green. She then drilled a 9-wood to 15 feet, where she holed the birdie putt to complete the comeback.
“I think I love match play,” said Martinez, a 2002 Women’s Amateur semifinalist. “It’s a great kind of golf because you don’t have to worry about … if you make a six on a hole. It allows you to just on the shot a little bit more.
“I’m an aggressive player and for me it’s a matter of getting that balance between too aggressive and not too aggressive.”
By The Numbers
Just what makes match play so unique? All you need to look at is the path semifinalists Morgan Pressel and Alison Whitaker have taken. In four matches, Pressel is the equivalent of 22 under par with the usual match-play concessions. She had eight birdies in her quarterfinal win over Jennie Lee.
Whitaker is a combined nine over par in her four matches. The only time the Australian has been under par was her second-round victory over Amanda Blumenherst, where she birdied 18 to force extra holes and then added a birdie at the 19th hole (par-5 first).
“I don’t feel like I have been playing my best golf out there on the course,” said Whitaker. “I think it’s just been a matter of I’ve been birdieing the holes where my opponents have been parring and I’ve been parring the ones they have been bogeying.
“I’m a big believer in match play, do you what you have to do to win, and you don’t really worry about how many under par you are. It certainly has not been an extremely low week for me, but … I’m sitting here into the semis, so I can’t really complain at all.”
Odds And Ends
Pressel has not faced an opponent over the age of 18. By playing Angela Park in the semis, Pressel will have met a 14-year-old (Jane Rah), 15-year-old (Mina Harigae), 16-year-old (Park), 17-year-old (Sooji Cho) and an 18-year-old (Jennie Lee). There's a chance she could get a 19-year-old in the final if Whitaker beats Martinez and Pressel knocks off Park.
And by beating Park, Pressel would have also defeated her fifth consecutive Californian. The two have played many junior tournaments together, but have met only once in match play. Pressel beat Park, 1 up, at the 2004 Canon Cup at Caves Valley outside of Baltimore, Md. ...
The four semifinalists are all from different countries. Pressel is the lone American, with Park from Brazil, Whitaker from Australia and Martinez from Venezuela. ...
Martinez is the only American collegian in the group. Whitaker goes to Deakin University in Australia, but the school doesn’t offer sports teams like the American college system. She is taking classes in applied science with a focus on exercise science. Park and Pressel will both be high school seniors.
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with question or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship
TICKETS – Admission and parking for all seven days of the championship are free of charge.
WHO CAN PLAY? – The U.S. Women’s Amateur is open to female amateurs who have USGA Handicap Indexes not exceeding 5.4. Entries closed June 15.
DEFENDING CHAMPION – Jane Park, 18, or Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., will defend the title she won in 2004.
THE FIELD – The 2005 field will include seven Georgia players. They are Laura Coble of Augusta, Jackie Beers of Bonaire, Alina Lee of Evans, Kyu Ri Ban of Duluth, Dori Carter of Valdosta, Diana Ramage of Fayetteville and Margaret Shirley of Roswell.
TELEVISION COVERAGE – Match-play rounds will be telecast on The Golf Channel Aug. 3-7 from 4-6 p.m., EDT.
OTHER PROMINENT PAST CHAMPIONS – Patty Berg, 1938; Betty Jameson, 1939, 1940; Babe Didrickson Zaharias, 1946; Louise Suggs, 1947; Beth Daniel, 1975, 1977; Juli Simpson (Inkster), 1980, 1981, 1982; Pat Hurst, 1990; Kelli Kuehne, 1995, 1996; Grace Park, 1998; Dorothy Delasin, 1999.
CHAMPIONSHIP COURSE CONDITIONS – The following mowing heights will be used for the championship: fairways 1/2"; tees 7/16"; collars 1/4". Putting greens will be prepared so that they are firm and fast; to measure approximately 11 feet on the USGA Stimpmeter. Intermediate rough: 1", width approximately 72" along fairways, width approximately 30" wide around putting greens. Primary rough: 2 1/4".
FUTURE WOMEN’S AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP SITES – The 2006 U. S. Women’s Amateur will be conducted at Pumpkin Ridge G.C., North Plains, Ore., Aug. 7 – 13.
MEDIA CONTACT – The Media Center for the U.S. Women’s Amateur will be located in the main clubhouse at Ansley Golf Club. Rhonda Glenn and Beth Murrison will be the USGA staff members on site. The Media Center phone numbers are (678)639-7488 and (678)639-7494.