Village of Pinehurst, N.C. – It never hurts to have a caddie who is not only a member of the host golf club, but also has won a pair of USGA championships.
Mike Bolger can claim both this week at The Country Club of North Carolina, where he’s been a member since 2001. He also caddied for his daughter, Meghan, when she captured back-to-back U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur championships in 2006 and 2007.
So imagine how 17-year-old Kyle Roig of Puerto Rico feels at this week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, with Bolger on her bag. No pressure to win, right?
I told him early on that I hope I can add a third one to your bag, said Roig, a senior-to-be at American Heritage High in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area. He has a lot of experience.
Roig first met Mike’s daughter five years ago at the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Women’s Amateur Championship, a match-play event held each January at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale. The young Roig handed Meghan Bolger (now Stasi), then the head women’s coach for the University of Mississippi, a sound defeat. But a friendship was formed and with Meghan now living in south Florida, the two talk frequently.
So when the elder Bolger called to offer his caddie services, she accepted. It didn’t hurt that he was a CCNC member.
He really helps me stay calm, said Roig after her 4-and-3 first-round victory over Paveenuch Sritragul of Thailand. I get really fired up when I have a good or bad shot.
Bolger said the course is set-up very similarly to what the male club members see on a regular basis, especially the yardage (6,331).
The pin placements have been fair, he said. They could make it a lot harder. I’m sure as the week goes on, it will get harder. The other [hard] part is the rough. It doesn’t look like much, but when the ball settles in there, it’s tough. I heard they are not cutting it the rest of the week.
But Bolger is having a great time, despite the oppressive heat.
I don’t have to miss any shots, he said. Kyle, she’s a player. She hits the ball a long way.
Meghan, who also played on the victorious 2008 USA Curtis Cup Team, normally would be in Pinehurst this week preparing for the Women’s North and South that began on Wednesday. But she decided to spend a long weekend in New Orleans with college friends from Tulane, celebrating their 10-year reunion.
Stasi will return to North Carolina in two weeks for the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Charlotte Country Club, but Mike won’t return to her bag until the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in September at Wichita (Kan.) Country Club.
So for now Mike is sticking with the talented Roig, who competed in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship for Puerto Rico in 2006 and 2008, and likely will be on the 2010 squad this fall in Argentina. She also recently committed to attend UCLA in the fall of 2011.
Roig, however, would like to finish her final Girls’ Junior in style.
When I was 12 competing here, I was just happy I made it, said Roig. Now that I am 17, I want to win this.
Having Bolger on the bag certainly doesn’t hurt.
Mikayla Harmon and Shelby Phillips traveled more than 2,000 miles from Gilbert, Ariz., to play in this year’s Girls’ Junior and the two neighbors wound up having a little backyard battle in the first round of match play.
It was pretty cool, said the 17-year-old Phillips, a senior-to-be at Highland High.
Unfortunately for Phillips, she topped her second shot at the par-5 18th hole into the water and suffered a 1-down defeat to the 15-year-old Harmon, who is a sophomore-to-be at rival Hamilton High.
It was not weird, said Harmon, a first-time Girls’ Junior participant, on playing a friend in the first round. It’s kind of a win-win situation. You get to play with your friend. It’s just fun either way.
Harmon and Phillips briefly shared the same instructor (Kene Bensel) at Owautukee Country Club before the former recently switched to another swing coach. While their two high schools often compete against each other, the two had never played against each other until Wednesday.
The banter was brief throughout, with neither golfer conceding much. Phillips, who missed the match-play cut last year at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., rallied from a two-hole deficit to square the match at the par-3 16th. Both golfers made long birdie putts at the par-4 17th before Phillips’ mishap at the home hole.
I just got nervous, admitted Phillips, who has verbally committed to attend the University of Iowa in 2011. I don’t know what happened. I got over the shot; I was on a downhill lie in the rough. I had a fairway wood and I topped it.
Harmon, who consistently outdrove her older opponent, came up 40 yards short in two and then holed a 15-foot birdie putt to close the match.
I feel really good, said Harmon. I was happy to make the cut. I love the match-play format.
Even if it means beating a friend.
Hoofing In The Heat
With temperatures climbing into the mid-90s and stifling humidity, one would think players would try to avoid any necessary manual labor.
Not 12-year-old Brooke Henderson of Canada. The Ottawa native carried her own bag through two practice rounds, two stroke-play qualifying rounds and 18 holes of match play.
I drank quite a bit, said the eighth-grader, who generally uses a push cart in events but none were available this week. It was pretty hot today, though.
Asked why she eschewed a caddie, Henderson added: I just know my own game, so I was fine.
Henderson, who doesn’t see this kind of heat and humidity in Canada, gave Casey Danielson, of Osceola, Wis., quite a tussle before finally succumbing at the 18th hole, 1 down. Henderson’s 30-foot birdie attempt at the par-5 closing hole missed and Danielson advanced to a second-round matchup against No. 5 seed Mariko Tumangan.
Meanwhile, Henderson is headed to Palm Beach, Fla., on Thursday for the Optimist International that starts on Saturday. From there, she heads back to Canada for the Canadian Women’s Amateur and then she’ll play in her club championship and the Canadian Girls’ Junior in early August.
Being from Ottawa, Henderson was asked if she is fan of the NHL’s Senators. She shook her head. How about the Montreal Canadians or Toronto Maple Leafs? Again, a resounding no. Does she like any of Canada’s teams? I like the San Jose Sharks, said Henderson with smile.
Victoria Tanco’s 20-hole victory over 14-year-old Gabriella Then included a loss-of-hole penalty for Then when she repaired a scuff mark on the 15th green prior to her 4-foot par putt. Tanco, who knew Rule 16-1 (Line of Putt), immediately called a Rules official over to make a claim. The result was a loss-of-hole penalty.
That was not nice, but we play by the Rules, said Tanco, a three-time U.S. Women’s Open participant and a past American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year. Do I tell [the official] or not? I’m a player who doesn’t want to win the hole that way. So after the hole, I was trying not to think about that.
Then recovered nicely and eventually birdied the 18th hole to force extra holes. Tanco finally emerged victorious when Then missed a 4-foot par putt at the par-4 20th hole. It turned out to be the longest match of the day.
I’m happy to be over, she said. I didn’t want to keep playing. I’m so hungry.
Odds And Ends
Summar Roachell, of Conway, Ark., had one of the best comebacks of the day. Trailing by three holes with six to play against 2008 Girls’ Junior runner-up Karen Chung, the 15-year-old rallied for a 19-hole victory. She birdied the par-5 18th hole to force extra holes and then made a winning 4 at No. 19 to win the match…Collins Bradshaw of Columbia, S.C., almost had a similar comeback against Kelli Oride of Lihue, Hawaii. Bradshaw also was 3 down after 14 holes, but squared the match, thanks to birdies at 16 and 18. Unfortunately, she bogeyed the par-4 19th hole and lost to Oride’s par…The two sets of sisters who qualified for match play – Erynne and Katie Lee, and Mariana and Sierra Sims – were all eliminated in round one. Katie Lee fell to Grace Na, 1 down, while Erynne dropped a 4-and-3 decision to Cali Hipp. Mariana Sims lost to No. 4 seed Gyeol Park, 2 and 1, and her sister, Sierra, lost to Kendall Martindale, 5 and 3…Alexandra Newell, whose sister Annaliese failed to make match play, also fell to 2007 champion Kristen Park, 4 and 3…Only five of the lower-seeded players won matches today. Eighth-seeded Jisoo Keel of Canada was the highest seed to be eliminated, falling to 2009 semifinalist Doris Chen.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments firstname.lastname@example.org.