Notebook: U.S. Girls' Junior Champ Anderson Enjoying New Status
By David Shefter, USGA
St. Louis – The days of anonymously showing up at a golf competition might be over for Amy Anderson.
The newly minted U.S. Girls’ Junior champion was getting congratulatory comments and hugs from players she didn’t even know at last week’s PGA Junior Championship in Ohio.
“They were saying, ‘I saw you on TV, congratulations,’ ” said Anderson after opening the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur on Monday with a 3-under-par 68 at Old Warson Country Club. “It’s kind of a weird feeling.”
Welcome to the world of celebrity. Before her amazing run to the Girls’ Junior title at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.C., the 17-year-old Oxbow, N.D., resident was hardly a blip on the radar screen. Anderson’s competitive golf summer consists of three months and doesn’t include American Junior Golf Association events. The Girls’ Junior (2008 and 2009) and PGA Junior Championship (2008 and 2009) were the only national competitions on her schedule.
After beating several elite players at the Girls’ Junior, including 2009 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier Alison Lee (third round), 2008 American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year Victoria Tanco (quarterfinals) and 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion/2008 USA Curtis Cup member Kimberly Kim (final), Anderson’s profile suddenly went to another level.
“It’s nice being the underdog because there are not as many expectations,” said Anderson, who beat Kim, 6 and 5, in the 36-hole championship match. “I [now] have more expectations than I did before. Both have their perks.”
Until July 25, the day of the Girls’ Junior final, Anderson had no intention of being at Old Warson for the Women’s Amateur. She didn’t even fill out an entry form, knowing she had three consecutive weeks of competitive golf prior to the Women’s Amateur and a men’s event in Detroit Lakes, Minn., following the Women’s Amateur.
By reaching the Girls’ Junior final, Anderson suddenly had an exemption into the Women’s Amateur. A little persuasion concluded with a detour to St. Louis. Anderson’s father is self employed and could afford an extra week on the road.
“I wanted to come. My parents just finally gave in,” said Anderson, who has spent the past month traveling by car with her parents and 18-year-old brother, Nathan, her caddie at the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur.
Nathan wasn’t permitted to caddie at the PGA Junior, but is back on her bag at Old Warson. The two make a formidable team. It helps that Nathan is an accomplished golfer in his own right. Both will be competing as freshmen this fall on the golf teams at North Dakota State.
“It makes a huge difference,” said Anderson. “It makes you feel more confident in your club selection and your line on the green. It’s a huge confidence booster.”
And who knows, perhaps a rematch is in store with Kim.
“That would be awesome,” said Anderson. “If I am in the finals, I’ll be happy.”
Better Late Than Never
After making a pair of stopovers in Toronto and Chicago, Maude-Aimee LeBlanc of Canada finally arrived at Old Warson Country Club on Sunday. But there was one minor problem – her clubs never came off the conveyor belt at Lambert St. Louis International Airport.
So the 20-year-old LeBlanc, who earned an exemption into the Women’s Amateur field by virtue of a top-eight finish at the 2008 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Australia, had to play a practice round with a borrowed set.
Fortunately, she didn’t need those clubs for Monday’s first round of stroke-play qualifying. Either sometime late Sunday night or early Monday, LeBlanc’s clubs were delivered to her hotel, and despite just one practice round, she managed a 4-over 75. She received no indication from the airlines on why the clubs didn’t arrive on time as she wasn’t hustling to make either of her two connections.
“Just a bad break,” she said.
Last week at the Canadian Women’s Amateur held in Moncton, New Brunswick, LeBlanc finished seventh. The Purdue University junior also won the Quebec Women’s Amateur this summer. But she didn’t feel totally confident with her game coming into this event.
“I’ve been hitting the ball everywhere, so I’m going to go practice,” said LeBlanc. “I just didn’t play good. It’s been up and down pretty much all year.”
Michelle Shin and Sun Gyoung Park each looked to be going south Monday by shooting 41 on their opening nines. But each rebounded with 32s over their final nine holes to post 2-over 73s.
Park, 17, of Vail, Ariz., registered five consecutive birdies from No. 12 to shoot four under on Old Warson’s second nine. Shin, 18, of Cape Coral, Fla., made three birdies in a five-hole stretch on the first nine.
Nothing can disrupt a round more than a blown tire.
Jennifer Hirano of Pinole, Calif., was cruising along quite nicely at two over par when the pull cart her mom was pushing blew a front tire.
Hirano, who reached the third round at last year’s Women’s Amateur, had originally planned to use a northern California caddie that she arranged to fly to the championship. But when things didn’t work out in the practice rounds, she and her mom decided to send him home.
To make up for the loss, Hirano’s mom agreed to use a pull cart, except 11 holes into Monday’s round, the accident occurred.
“I’d go out and buy one, but we have four at home,” said Sandra Hirano. “I couldn’t justify bringing another one home.”
Unable to fix the cart, Jennifer was forced into carrying her bag for the remaining holes, which seemed to halt her momentum. She quickly bogeyed the second hole – her 11th of the round, and followed with a bogey at the par-3 third and a double-bogey 6 at the fourth.
Despite a 37 on the inward nine, she finished with a 79.
Hirano said things could be better on Tuesday when she starts the round carrying the bag, something she does regularly while competing for the University of Miami (Fla.), where she is a sophomore and sister Christina is entering her junior year.
“I will be carrying the bag tomorrow,” said Hirano. “It’s too heavy for my mom.”
Odds and Ends
On the grounds was a pair of past USGA champions. Greg Puga, the 2000 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who has since become a pro in southern California, is serving as Lizette Salas’ caddie, while three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Ellen Port, a St. Louis resident, paid a visit to see friends. Port tried to qualify for the Women’s Amateur but said, “I turned a 71 into a 75.” Her next USGA championship will be the Women’s Mid-Amateur at Golden Hills Golf and Turf Club in Ocala, Fla…Roaming the grounds Monday was NHL color commentator Joe Micheletti. His daughter, Allison, was the second alternate from the St. Charles, Mo., sectional qualifier and was on site in case of a late withdrawal. All 156 competitors started on Monday…Jennifer Song, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion, rebounded from a tough first-nine start to post a 4-over 75.
David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.