Two Anteaters Enjoy Women's Amateur Spotlight
Wins By Chin, Henderson Provide Some Respect For UCI, Big West
By David Shefter, USGA
Eugene, Ore. – The schools are only separated by some 40 miles of congested southern California freeway traffic, but when it comes to notoriety and reputation, they might as well be across the ocean.
UCLA and the University of Southern California each compete in the bigger – and arguably – more powerful Pacific-10 Conference, while UC Irvine can be construed as the ugly stepsister in the less-profile Big West without the mega-bucks television contracts or the splashy front-of-the-sports-page headlines.
But the school with a unique nickname (Anteaters) did a little devouring Wednesday in the first round of match play at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Jane Chin of Mission Viejo, Calif., a fifth-year senior at UCI, and recent graduate Selanee Henderson of Apple Valley, Calif., eliminated a UCLA Bruin and USC Trojan, respectively.
Chin vanquished two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion and 2008 USA Curtis Cupper Tiffany Joh of San Diego, 1 up, while Henderson beat incoming USC freshman and 2008 WAPL runner-up Jennifer Song of Korea, 2 and 1.
“I’m having a really good day,” said UCI women’s golf coach Julie Brooks, who is caddieing for Henderson. “People are like, ‘Oh there should be a crowd signing up to go to Irvine. It’s awesome. It’s great for our program.”
Last month, UCI’s John Chin – unrelated – advanced to the final of the U.S. Amateur Public Links and now two Anteaters are through to the round of 32 at the Women’s Amateur.
“This is a pretty big win because Tiffany won Publinx [this] year,” said Chin. “In college tournaments we all play together. It doesn’t really matter what conference you’re from. It’s not that big of deal.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Henderson, a 2007 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier who skipped last year’s Women’s Amateur to play in the World University Games in Thailand.
“I think we’re all at the highest level and we all got here somehow regardless of what school we go to,” said Henderson. “[But] there’s no doubt [our wins] will be good for the program.”
Chin, a childhood rival of Joh on the southern California junior circuit, redshirted this past season to work on her swing in hopes of someday turning pro. In order to come back for a fifth season, she needed to add a psychology minor to her major of criminology. By the time she graduates, Chin might have a better understanding of how the criminal mind works.
On Wednesday, her mind focused on beating Joh, the runner-up at the 2008 NCAAs and a first-team All-American. The back-and-forth match saw Joh rally from 2 down to square it at No. 16. But at the par-4 18th hole, Joh lipped out a 6-foot par putt and Chin converted hers from 4 feet.
“She’s a solid player and she deserved that win today,” said a gracious Joh. “It’s unfortunate the way it ended but I have to give myself a little pat on the back for how I played coming down the back nine.”
Joh, who just finished up taking finals for the first semester of summer school, now heads back for another session. In fact, she missed the first few days by competing here this week. “I got a couple of ugly e-mails from my professors,” she said.
Henderson completed her schoolwork in the spring and plans to turn pro after this week’s championship. A winner of six college events, including the 2006 Big West championship, Henderson said her game has come full circle since she got “burnt out” after the ’07 Women’s Open. While she only made one birdie against Song, her consistent ball-striking proved to be enough to earn a second-round match with Ellen Mueller.
“I’m striking my irons really well right now,” said Henderson. “Just none of my putts fell today. Being out of school, I have more time [to practice]. My only weak club has been my driver. I have to figure out not to swing so aggressive to keep it down the middle.”
As for Chin, Brooks said the key has been getting her to believe that she belongs with the country’s elite players. And, perhaps, the year away from college competition has paid dividends.
“We’re very excited,” said Brooks of having Chin back for one more season.
On Thursday, the challenge goes up again. She meets 18-year-old Stephanie Kono of Honolulu, Hawaii, a semifinalist at the 2008 WAPL and ’07 U.S. Girls’ Junior.
Who just happens to be headed this fall to UCLA.
David Shefter is a USGA New Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.