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Notebook: Song Control Inner Emotions For Women's Amateur Title

By David Shefter, USGA

St. Louis – On the outside, Jennifer Song is normally stoic and poker-faced. Her emotions are never worn on her sleeve and spectators can’t tell if she’s up or down in a match.

But as opponent Jennifer Johnson built a 4-up lead through 10 holes of Sunday’s 36-hole championship match of the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Warson Country Club, Song’s stomach was doing cartwheels.

“There was like a volcano eruption going inside my body,” said Song. “And I was breathing hard. I thought I needed … an inhaler.”

The 19 year old who was born in Ann Arbor, Mich., did calm her nerves thanks to some soothing words from father/caddie Museok. Soon the lead evaporated and Song’s nerves evaporated in the stifling Missouri heat.

By day’s end, Song owned a 3-and-1 victory and the Robert Cox Cup that goes to the Women’s Amateur champion.

 
Jennifer Song said her stomach was ready to erupt like a volcano after falling four holes behind early in Sunday's 36-hole championship match. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)  

For the past several days, Song has admitted that she enjoys listening to CDs of sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella, which gives her positive reinforcement. It’s something she needed after a disappointing runner-up finish at the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Championship, where a double bogey at the 72nd hole cost the University of Southern California freshman the title by one stroke.

A month later at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in Devens, Mass., Song found herself in the final. But this time, she closed the deal with a 7-and-6 triumph over Kimberly Kim at Red Tail Golf Club.

“It’s really weird because my grandparents [back in Korea] were kind of saying, ‘Hey, you need to know how to win, it’s like you gave up,’ ” said Song, who holds dual citizenship (Korea and American). “They were kind of making me mad because they’re old-tradition guys, so they scold you when you don’t do it right. It made me feel kind of mad. But I learned a lot from them, too.”

Song doesn’t appear to have self-doubt anymore. Not after winning the WAPL and Women’s Amateur and finishing as the low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open last month at Saucon Valley Country Club. It was the second time she earned that honor, having shared the feat with Jennie Lee in 2007 at Pine Needles Resort and Lodge.

Judging by her performance at Old Warson this week, it looks like Song doesn’t need to look toward the bullpen for assistance any longer.

“Now I think I’m moving one step at a time,” she said. “You can’t replace winning a championship.”  

Space In The Hall

Among the many things one will find inside Heritage Hall at the University of Southern California are the seven Heisman Trophies won by members of the football team, some 110 plaques showcasing the NCAA titles captured by the school’s athletic squads, including football and basketball, the Sullivan Award given to swimmer John Naber and busts of several legendary coaches such as Howard Jones (football), John McKay (football), Dean Cromwell (track and field) and actor John Wayne (played football at USC).

Perhaps there might be a space in the case for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and U.S. Women’s Amateur trophies captured by the Trojan sophomore Song this summer.

“Whenever I go to the athletic department, on the walls there are all these football and baseball players, but I’ve never seen a golf player on there,” said Song.

Song became the first Trojan to win the Women’s Amateur since Becky Lucidi in 2002. USC alum Jill McGill won the title in 1993. McGill also claimed a WAPL title the following year. Other notable Trojans to win USGA titles include Craig Stadler (1973 U.S. Amateur) and Scott Simpson (1987 U.S. Open).

Elite Company

By winning the WAPL and Women’s Amateur titles in the same season, Song joins a special group of seven golfers to have won multiple USGA championships in the same year that includes Bob Jones (1930 U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur), Chick Evans (1916 U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur) and Pearl Sinn (1988 WAPL and Women’s Amateur).

In fact, Sinn and Song share similar backgrounds. Sinn was born in Korea and later emigrated to the U.S., where she became a U.S. citizen and played on the Curtis Cup team. Song was born in Michigan to Korean parents and possesses dual citizenship.

When asked if she had ever met Sinn, now retired from the LPGA Tour, Song replied, “No, I’ve never met her. She won before I was born.” Song was born in 1989, a year after Sinn’s remarkable feat.

End Of The Road

Like Song, Jennifer Johnson has spent virtually the entire summer on the road. In fact, her dad has had the same rental car he picked up in St. Louis in late June when Johnson competed in Cape Giradeau, Mo., at the Rolex Tournament of Champions. From there, they traveled to Chambersburg, Pa., to stay with Johnson’s grandparents. While there, she qualified for the Women’s Amateur in the Pittsburgh area before traveling to Bedminster, N.J., for the U.S. Girls’ Junior. She then spent the week in between the Girls’ Junior and the Women’s Amateur back in Chambersburg.

Song also has spent the entire summer with her father, Museok, a college professor of fluid mechanics in Korea. It started in early June at the Women’s Open sectional qualifier in Santa Cruz, Calif., then the WAPL in Devens, Mass., the Women’s Open in Bethlehem, Pa., two Futures Tour events in the Northeast and concluding with the Women’s Amateur in St. Louis. Along the way, the two made time to visit museums and places of interest in each town.

Just prior to the Women’s Open, they visited the USGA Museum at Golf House in Far Hills, N.J., and made time for some sightseeing in New York. While in St. Louis, they checked out the Gateway Arch and Forest Park, which houses several historical museums.

During the prize ceremony, Song mentioned in her speech how special it was to visit the art museum in Forest Park, where the World’s Fair took place in 1904. The Summer Olympics also were held in St. Louis in 1904, which incidentally, is the last time golf was on the official program.

But it was a trip to a theme park that took Song’s mind off golf.

“Before I learned all the historical facts of St. Louis, I went to Six Flags and rode a lot of rides,” she said with a smile. “Those are the things that I need here and there in between tournaments.”

Song next heads back to Los Angeles to prepare for the fall semester at USC, while her father and mother are flying back to Korea on Aug. 11. The only member of the family who wasn’t in St. Louis was her older brother Albert, who is doing a summer internship in the People’s Republic of China. He attends Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.

Odds And Ends

FOX network broadcaster Joe Buck, who lives close to Old Warson and is a member, watched the afternoon round of the final…With temperatures reaching the high-90s, both players consumed plenty of liquids during the match. Song said she drank 12 bottles of water…Both players received text messages from family, friends and teammates. “It was kind of crazy,” said Johnson. Song did not have her cell phone for  Sunday’s final, but said she got a lot of messages on Saturday night. “I checked my Facebook [account],” said Song, “and a lot of my teammates were saying, ‘Hey, I’m cheering for you.’ I have great supporters around me.”

David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at dshefter@usga.org.

 

 

 
Championship Facts

U.S. Women's Amateur

HISTORY: The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of the United States Golf Association’s original three championships. It was first conducted in 1895, shortly after the inaugural U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open. The Women’s Amateur has since been conducted every year except 1917-18, when it was temporarily suspended because of World War I, and 1942-45, when it was suspended because of World War II.

PAR & YARDAGE: Old Warson Country Club will play at 6,422/6,468 yards and par of 35-36—71.

ARCHITECT: Old Warson Country Club was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and opened in 1954.

COURSE SET-UP –The USGA Course Rating® for the Women’s Amateur Championship at Old Warson Country Club is 78.1 and USGA Slope Rating® is 140.

Tees and fairways, height of grass – 7/16 inch

Collars, height of grass – 0.2 inch

Putting greens, speed – 11.5-12 feet on USGA Stimpmeter

Intermediate Rough – 1.25 inches (3 feet width)

Primary Rough – 3 inches

FORMAT: The U.S. Women’s Amateur is conducted with 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying. The low 64 scorers then advance to match play, with the champion determined by a 36-hole match-play final.

WHO CAN PLAY: The U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship is open to female amateurs who have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4.

ENTRIES: A total of 955 contestants entered the 2009 championship. The record of 969 was set in 2006.

 

 
 

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