Notebook: Quarterfinalist Schepperle Showing Experience Of Chiseled Veteran
By David Shefter, USGA
St. Louis – As the oldest remaining player in the 109th U.S. Women’s Amateur – 21 is hardly ready for AARP – Candace Schepperle can relate a lot more to the highs and lows of the game.
That’s because in 2009, the Birmingham, Ala., resident has been at both ends of the spectrum.
Early in the year, she claimed two big competitions, the Dixie Amateur and the Harder Hall Invitational, but those triumphs were matched by the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Championship. Her Auburn team missed by two strokes at the East Regional and Schepperle failed to go as an individual by one stroke.
“I think everything is like a learning point,” said Schepperle after posting a 3-and-2 third-round win Thursday over Maude-Aimee LeBlanc of Canada at Old Warson Country Club. “Not going to nationals hit hard to everybody. I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs in my career. It just makes you stronger in the end. I’m appreciating where I am right now.”
Case in point was a loss-of-hole penalty in her second-round match Thursday against Molly Aronsson. Schepperle held a 4-up lead at the time and despite the momentary setback, went on to post a 4-and-3 victory.
“It just kind of happened,” said Schepperle, who was also given a slow-play penalty during the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March. “Whatever, you have to play fast.”
As for being the oldest remaining competitor, Schepperle, at least from a golf perspective, feels like a senior citizen. She is the only quarterfinalist who has more than a year of college under her belt. Three of the final eight have yet to finish high school and two more, including quarterfinal foe Jennifer Johnson of La Quinta, Calif., are entering college in the fall.
“I have felt old for quite a while,” said Schepperle, a first-team All-American performer this past season where she never finished outside the top 10 in any tournament. “[I felt old] at 19 when I was playing with 14 year olds.
“At 21, I also come with a lot of experience. I play in a lot of hard tournaments and I’ve come out on top a lot of times and I have used that to my advantage.”
Playing in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open and making the cut was a major moment for Schepperle. Saucon Valley Country Club was “the toughest [course] I have ever seen.”
Competing in that arena under those challenging conditions certainly helped prepare her for this week’s Women’s Amateur.
“I like tough courses,” she said. “I usually play better on them. I’m thrilled with this course. I was talking with my dad (Dave) and the only thing I would change is the stairs going down No. 5. [But] it’s a lot of fun to play.”
As a tribute to Bradley Johnson, a Birmingham golfer who died in an automobile accident in 2006, Schepperle is wearing a black wristband with the words “In Memory of Bradley Johnson.” Johnson was the runner-up at the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur to Kevin Tway and a star player in the state who likely would have gone to play at Auburn.
“One of my best friends was good friends with him,” said Schepperle, “and I played a little golf with him.”
Jennifer Johnson competed in the Junior Ryder Cup in Louisville last summer and will be on the United States Junior Solheim Cup team that competes against Europe next week in Aurora, Ill. The event is a precursor to the regular Solheim Cup slated for Rich Harvest Farms.
Could the Curtis Cup be next?
“We’ll just have to see,” said Johnson.
Three more wins at the Women’s Amateur would definitely put Johnson into the conversation for next June’s Match at Essex County Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. USA captain Noreen Mohler, who qualified for the 2009 Women’s Amateur but failed to make match play, spent the last two days roaming the grounds watching matches and potential players. She did inquire about Johnson’s credentials, which include a quarterfinal showing at the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago.
This week, Johnson has yet to face a deficit in 44 holes of match play. On Thursday, she eliminated Amelia Lewis and Sydnee Michaels by 3-and-2 scores.
“I didn’t play too well this morning, but I played pretty well this afternoon,” said the 18-year-old Johnson, who is headed to Arizona State in the fall. “I’ve been making a few putts.”
Johnson has been away from home since June 27, an odyssey that has taken her to a couple of American Junior Golf Association events, the Girls’ Junior and sectional qualifying for the Women’s Amateur. After the Girls’ Junior she spent time at her grandmother’s house in Chambersburg, Pa., before coming to Old Warson.
“I just practiced and rested,” she said.
Odds And Ends
The father of quarterfinalist Han Jungeun of Korea is a quarter-horse trainer. A couple of his horses have won big races back in Korea…Cydney Clanton, who fell to Jennifer Song in the third round, carried her own bag. She was the only player who made match player who chose not to use a caddie. “She’s in great shape,” said Dave Schepperle, who is caddying for his daughter Candace, a fellow Auburn teammate of Clanton…UCLA coach Carrie Forsythe was in attendance to watch Bruins Sydnee Michaels, Tiffany Lua and Stephanie Kono. She returned to Los Angeles Thursday afternoon…Auburn coach Kim Evans was en route to Old Warson on Thursday and will be in the gallery to watch Schepperle on Friday.
David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.