Wales Curtis Cupper Loucks Good In First-Round Win
By Stuart Hall
Eugene, Ore. – Breanne Loucks likes designing, shopping and getting “dolled up” as a few of her hobbies. So it is no surprise that Loucks steps to the first tee with a mod fashion sense, sporty hairdo and stylish sunglasses.
But do not be fooled by her sartorial splendor.
“I’m pretty much happy with whatever the match score, because I love to fight, love fighting back, and I also love to come out shooting from the start,” said Loucks.
On Wednesday, the 20-year-old from Wrexham, Wales, came out firing, taking the lead for good at the fourth hole en route to a 2-and-1 victory over 17-year-old Michelle Shin of Cape Coral, Fla. in the first round of match play at the 108th U.S. Women’s Amateur at Eugene Country Club.
“It was good, but I could have done so much better,” said Loucks. “But I guess that’s golf isn’t it? On this course you have to hit it straight and I’ve been struggling a little bit in that department. Today, I was able to bring it back a little.”
In defeating Shin, a semifinalist at both the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and U.S. Girls’ Junior, the two-time member of the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup squad advanced to play 25-year-old Tracy Nichols of Rocklin, Calif., in Thursday’s second round.
Wearing a yellow t-shirt blouse with the word “birdie” on the left chest, Loucks was in the right mindset and won the par-4 opening hole with a birdie. Shin won the par-4 third hole with a pedestrian par, and Loucks followed by taking the par-4 fourth for what proved to be the outright lead.
“I couldn’t make any putts and I was all over the place, couldn’t get a tempo,” said Shin, who missed the match-play cut at the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago. “And if I won a hole, then she would win it right back. So …”
Shin shot 5-over 149 (74-75) in stroke play, and was generally pleased with her play. On Wednesday, Shin, a quarterfinalist at the WAPL two months ago, could not locate her game.
“It’s kind of disappointing,” said Shin. “Last year [at the U.S. Women’s Amateur], I won my first match and then lost my second, but played well in both. If I played well and lost I wouldn’t mind, but I didn’t play well today.”
Loucks, who shot the equivalent of three over (with concessions) through 17 holes, won the par-3 fifth with a par, lost the par-3 seventh to par and then won the par-4 ninth and 10th holes with pars. Three down with three to play, Shin managed to win No. 16 before being closed out at 17.
Playing with a slight lead throughout allowed Loucks the luxury of working through some swing issues that cropped up during stroke-play qualifying Monday and Tuesday on the tight 6,516-yard course.
“I had a good chat with my coach this morning, talked a little about what happened yesterday, and he reassured me on some things I worked on by myself yesterday on the range,” said Loucks, who was born in Canada, but moved to Wales at a young age.
With five members of the victorious USA Curtis Cup team members advancing to match play, and given that Loucks is just playing her second competition on American soil, she is going somewhat unnoticed. But her credentials suggest that she could be a sleeper.
A year ago, she won the Welsh Ladies Amateur Championship. In April, Loucks pulled off a coveted double, winning the South African Women’s Amateur Championship’s stroke and match play titles in a little more than a week’s time. In June, she won the Irish Women’s Open Amateur Stroke Play title.
Furthermore, her match-play record in the United States is now 4-0. She went 3-0 in GB&I’s 11.5-6.5 loss in the 2006 Match three hours down the road at Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Ore. In GB&I’s 13-7 defeat earlier this summer at the Old Course at St. Andrews, Loucks lost her Sunday singles match to Kimberly Kim and was 1-2 in foursomes and four-balls.
“I think I’ve gained a huge amount of experience playing against the people you hope to be playing against if you’re going to turn pro, which is my goal now,” said Loucks, who plans to turn professional on her 21st birthday this Oct. 16. “I wouldn’t have been able to play in this event without my exemption from being on the Curtis Cup team. So it’s all about the experience. If you want to play at the next level, then you have to take advantage of the opportunities when they present them.”
Another opportunity presents itself Thursday morning. And Loucks will fight to make the most of that chance.
Just don’t let the looks fool you.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship Web sites.