Schepperle Stays Grounded Despite 5-Under Round At Women’s Amateur
By Stuart Hall
Carmel, Ind. – To Candace Schepperle, there was nothing overly special about Monday.
Yes, her opening-round 5-under-par 67 made her the early first-round clubhouse leader at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Crooked Stick Golf Club. But for the 19-year-old from Birmingham, Ala., via New York, the round is put into proper context by the reminders around her.
On her left wrist, intertwined with her Auburn University blue and orange bracelet, is a black rubber bracelet with the printed white words: In Memory Of Bradley Johnson. On each of her golf balls, she writes her niece’s nickname, Kikki.
Johnson, the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship runner-up, died in a car accident on March 25, 2006. A native of Birmingham, Ala., Johnson was going to sign with Auburn and would have been a freshman, alongside Schepperle, this past year. Schepperle’s niece died of leukemia a few years ago.
“They kind of help me focus on bigger things and remind me that golf is just a game,” Schepperle said.
That game came rather easily to Schepperle on a steamy day in central Indiana, especially since she stood at one over through two holes. Of her six birdies, five came during her inward nine of 5-under 31, and only one putt was more than 12 feet.
“It was pretty normal,” she said. “I didn’t think anything about it. I hit fairways and greens, and if I missed a green, I’d get up and down. I’d say it was a pretty standard day. But making a couple of birdie putts made it nicer.”
Since playing her first practice round on Friday, Schepperle has developed an appreciation for the 6,497-yard Pete Dye layout. Nearly each hole has caught her marveling at its beauty and beastliness.
That this is a USGA championship only heightens Schepperle’s excitement this week.
“I like hard courses,” she said. “The harder the better. And the USGA finds good tough ones. They get the greens fast, and I love how the greens roll.”
Finding the proper pace, though, was Scheppele’s main concern prior to her morning starting time. She was unable to adequately gauge speed on the smallish practice green, so she was not all that confident that a 67 was in the offing.
David Schepperle, Candace’s father and bag-toting caddie, believed his daugther’s ball-striking from tee to green would keep her in good stead.
“I think it gets her around every day,” he said. “She missed probably three or four birdie putts early, but it didn’t seem to bother her.”
Apparently, nothing much bothers her.
“She pretty much keeps to herself and is not one of those kids who needs a lot of attention from other people,” said David Schepperle. “She’s a very self-confident person.”
That was clearly on exhibit Monday, and now becoming commonplace at national events.
Schepperle is making her sixth USGA appearance and was the low individual scorer at the 2005 USGA Women’s State Team Championship. As an Auburn freshman, playing next to her 21-year-old sister Abigail, Candace led the Tigers with five top-20 finishes, including a tie for sixth at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic. Earlier this summer, she was the stroke-play medalist at the prestigious North and South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst.
“I’ve been putting myself in this kind of situation,” she said. “It’s past being medalist, it’s past saying, ‘Oh well, you’re shooting good;’ it’s past the ranking, it’s past everything else. It’s just about going out and scoring. I’m comfortable that way.”
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer with the Golf Press Association whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.