Monday Notebook: Schepperle Sisters Make It Family Affair At Women’s Amateur
By David Shefter, USGA
Roswell, Ga. – Caddie Kim Schepperle stood behind the roped area to the right of the 18th green at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek Course early Monday afternoon waiting for her competitor to finish signing her scorecard.
But her eyes were fixated across the small pond at the ninth green. She tried to get a sign from her husband, David, on what was going on with his player.
Of course, the players both are quite close to the two Schepperles. They happen to be their daughters: 17-year-old high school senior Candace and 19-year-old Auburn University sophomore-to-be Abigaile. The two Birmingham, Ala., competitors are the only two sisters in the field this week at the 2005 U.S. Women’s Amateur and each finished their first rounds of stroke-play qualifying at virtually the same time. It’s the first time the two have ever qualified for the same USGA event, although they have played in junior competitions together.
The elder Schepperle came in at 4-over-par 76, while young sis’ posted a 74.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Kim Schepperle, focused on Candace’s game on the ninth green. “I’m trying to see what my other daughter is doing. This is quite a treat for us.”
Kim is pulling a cart for Abigaile, while David, a former teaching pro in the Metropolitan New York area, is on the bag for Candace. David Schepperle worked at several clubs in Long Island before relocating the family to Alabama where he operates a business that sells golf training aids.
“He his both of our coaches,” said Candace. “He reads the greens incredibly. He knows both of our games really well. He could still be a great player if it wasn’t for us.”
Candace plans to join Abigaile at Auburn after she completes her final year at Keystone National High. And they will room together in a trailer that David purchased. The big question now is who will get the master bedroom. Apparently the decision will be made from the lowest scorer in stroke play this week.
Candace shrugged off the alleged wager, but said she isn’t just trying to compete against her sister this week.
“We don’t play against each other,” said Candace. “We root each other on. Naturally, I want to do the best I can. And she does, too, no matter if it is beating each other.”
Added Abigaile: “We’re just blessed that we are both here. Being the older one, I know she always wants to beat me, which she does a lot of the time.”
Sisters or brothers playing in the same USGA event isn’t common, but it has happened twice this season. George and Wesley Bryan each competed at the U.S. Junior in Longmeadow, Mass., and Marika and Isabella Lendl were at the U.S. Girls’ Junior in Eagle, Idaho.
Of course, the possibility exists if Candace and Abigaile qualify for match play they could face each other.
“It wouldn’t be that bad,” said Abigaile. “Either way one of us would win and we would be supportive of each other. It would be fine.”
Said Candace: “In a tournament like this, I’m a competitor and I want to win. She is a competitor and I don’t look at her as a sister. I would say good luck to her and you are going down.”
These days, it’s not uncommon to see athletes bolt early from college – or not even attend at all – to join the professional ranks. Women’s golf is seeing this occur about as rapidly as the NBA has witnessed high-school basketball stars apply for the draft before ever stepping foot on a college campus.
But what about leaving high school early for college?
It’s about to happen at the University of Georgia where Alina Lee of Evans, Ga. (west of Augusta) will matriculate this fall at the tender age of 15. And she just turned 15 on June 25.
Lee, who has been home-schooled by her parents, skipped two grades and earned the necessary credits and SAT score to enter college three years before more students do. This fall, she’ll walk the campus in Athens before she’s eligible to drive or maintain a full-time job. It’s believed she will be the youngest student in school history.
And definitely the youngest ever to play on the Bulldogs’ nationally ranked women’s golf team.
“She’s definitely a youngster,” said Jackie Beers of Bonaire, Ga., and a senior-to-be at Georgia who hosted Lee on her unofficial visit to the school. “It’s going to be a different college experience for her. But I think it’s good.
“I personally couldn’t imagine doing that at 15. But … every person is different and she is very mature for her age and I think she will settle in just fine.”
Georgia assistant coach Laura Matthews, also a competitor here this week at the Women’s Amateur, couldn’t comment on Lee because she officially hasn’t signed a national letter of intent. Lee plans to walk on the team and eventually earn a scholarship.
Lee declined to be interviewed following her first round Monday, but she told The Associated Press in May, “I don’t think it’s about age. It’s about maturity. I think I’m pretty responsible and I know I can go to college, even though I’m young.”
Lee has only been playing golf for five years following years of piano, violin and figure skating lessons as well as playing soccer and tennis. She settled on golf after placing second in her first competitive tournament, which came less than three months after her first lesson.
Born in Boston and raised in Florida, Lee spent time at a golf academy in Bradenton, Fla., then moved to a suburb of Augusta to be closer to her swing coach. In the meantime, she skipped the two grades and took classes for gifted students. During the summer, she would read and study while other kids took vacations and went to the pool.
Last year at 14, she became the youngest winner of the Western Girls’ Junior. In fact, she won three top tournaments in a span of 22 days. Her mother, Jean, is a retired concert pianist and the family plans to move to Athens so they can drive her to campus for classes.
And, of course, she’ll have new teammates to compete against, all of whom will be at least three to seven years older than her. This week, three other Georgia players are in the field, including incoming freshman Taylor Leon, 18, of Dallas, Texas, and 19-year-old junior-to-be Whitney Wade.
“We are going to treat her like any other teammate,” said Wade. “But we know we’ll have to show her around a lot. We realize she is only 15. We’re going to look after to her.”
Wade had some experience playing with older players while back in Glasgow, Ky. Kentucky rules allow elementary-school kids to play varsity sports if they are good enough to make the team. Wade played on the high school varsity as a fourth-grader.
“Having to look up to juniors and seniors is really intimidating,” she said. “[But] I don’t think she is intimidated by us and she has gotten to know us a lot more.”
Added Beers: “She has a good head on her shoulders and I think she’ll do well.”
For the record, Lee shot an 81 and has plenty of work to do Tuesday if she hopes to make match play. Otherwise Lee is looking at the dreaded … early exit.
Margaret Shirley’s odyssey to the 2004 Women’s Amateur in Erie, Pa., could have provided a good script for a Hollywood movie. For starters, her father/caddie, William, lost his driver’s license, so the two had to absorb two airline tickets. Margaret wound up flying alone to Erie, but her clubs didn’t take the same route. Between Atlanta, Cincinnati and Erie, the airlines misplaced her implements, so she had to borrow a set for one of her practice rounds.
William, on the other hand, had to stand in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles to get another license and finally made it to Pittsburgh in time for the last practice round. She had one day to get a true feel of the Donald Ross course, but still managed to make the match-play cut and win two matches, including one over future Auburn University teammate Nicole Hage (20 holes).
By advancing to the round of 16, Shirley, now 19, earned an exemption to the 2005 Women’s Amateur, which happens to be taking place 10 minutes from her home in Roswell.
No airline or hotel reservations were required. Everyone and everything in the Shirley party arrived in time for the big event.
Then again, it doesn’t hurt to be sleeping in your own bed while you compete for a national championship.
“Oh my god, that’s like the best thing ever,” said Shirley, a sophomore-to-be at Auburn. “I woke up [Monday] morning, just watched some TV, hung out and came to the golf course.”
She even invited a few of her Auburn teammates to stay at her parents’ home, but they chose the hotel route.
“But we had them all over last night for dinner,” said Shirley. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
On the course, Shirley scrambled to shoot a 1-over-par 73 on a day when she said she easily could have posted an 83.
“I just scrambled all day long and made some really good putts out there,” she said. “I am very happy with it.”
Odds And Ends
Ashley Rollins of Austin, Texas, recorded a hole-in-one at the seventh hole with a 9-iron. Unfortunately, she finished with a 91 and likely won’t make the match-play cut. … Fifteen players broke par, including 53-year-old reigning USGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion Carolyn Creekmore of Dallas, Texas. … It was a little tougher day for seven-time USGA champion Carol Semple Thompson, 56, of Sewickley, Pa. She posted an 82, including an 8 at the 11th hole, her second of the day. This is Thompson’s 100th USGA championship…Seventy-eight golfers posted 76 or better on the par-72 layout. But reigning NCAA champion Anna Grzebien and 2004 USA Curtis Cupper Elizabeth Janangelo struggled with 77 and 80, respectively…The stroke average for round one was 77.4. The toughest hole was No. 14 (417 yards) at 4.814, while easiest was the par-3 seventh (119 yards) at 3.019. No hole played over par … Two golfers made a 10 and one 11 was recorded.
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.