The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind for Samantha Wagner. First there was the phone call from the USGA on Monday morning, followed by a plethora of texts and tweets, then the drive from her cousin’s home in North Carolina.
Once the 18-year-old arrived at Lancaster Country Club Tuesday morning, the anticipation had become reality. Not only was she getting her first start in a U.S. Women’s Open, it was coming not far from where she grew up.
“This is a big one, especially since this is home,” said Wagner, who was born about an hour east of Lancaster in Easton, Pa., and spent her first 12 years in the Lehigh Valley before moving to Orlando, Fla.
Wagner, who begins her freshman year at the University of Florida next month, had been anxiously hoping for a call from the USGA for the past few weeks as one of the first alternates from sectional qualifying. She settled for first alternate at Galloway (N.J.) National Golf Club on June 1 when she bogeyed her final hole.
Because the USGA was holding the final three places in the field for anyone who got inside the top 50 of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings as of July 6, Wagner was hopeful of getting in. Shiho Oyama, of Japan, was the only golfer to join the top 50, so the remaining two spots went to alternates from sectional qualifying. LPGA Tour player Jaye Marie Green, the runner-up in the 2012 U.S. Amateur, garnered one and Wagner received the other.
Because Wagner knew there was a chance of getting in, she and her mother, Amy, and older brother, C.J., drove to North Carolina this past weekend.
“My mom was watching the top 50,” said Wagner. “I tried not to.”
Once it became official, they drove Monday to Lancaster. More family members from the Lehigh Valley as well as members of Northampton Country Club, where Wagner first learned the game, are expected to arrive in the coming days. Wagner’s family moved to central Florida shortly after she competed in the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Hartford Golf Club as an 11-year-old.
Wagner certainly is familiar with the course. As an 11-year-old, she played her first U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifier at Lancaster. Two years ago, she finished in a tie for 22nd in the Rolex Tournament of Champions, a prestigious invitational on the American Junior Golf Association circuit, shooting 74-75-74-75.
C.J. Wagner, 20, will serve as her caddie, but there will be plenty of additional support outside the ropes. Amy Wagner said she expects a lot of Northampton members to make the 90-minute drive.
“We have eight family members coming for sure,” said Samantha, who is competing in her sixth USGA championship. “Coming home and getting to see people that we haven’t seen in like eight years is very exciting.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.