U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Timuquana Postscript: Greenlief's Quest; Ross Restorer is Busy Man May 7, 2019 | Jacksonville, Fla. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

2015 Women's Mid-Amateur champ Lauren Greenlief is taking a hiatus from work to play a full summer golf schedule. (USGA/Steven Gibbons) 

As she began to plan her 2019 competitive calendar, Lauren Greenlief decided that this was the year to “double down” on her aspirations.

“I normally take an eight-week leave from work every other year, and this was the year to do that again,” said Greenlief, 28, of Ashburn, Va., during the 5th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship last week at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla.

But Greenlief was also coming off a 2018 season in which she won her second consecutive Virginia Women’s Amateur and advanced to the quarterfinals of both the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, a championship she won in her debut at age 25 in 2015.

The quarterfinal spot in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur made her the first mid-am (age 25 and older) to advance that far in 12 years and marked her first time advancing to match play in six tries at that championship. It was time, Greenlief thought, to take her best shot at achieving some important career goals by doubling her planned 2019 work hiatus from eight to 16 weeks.

“This felt like the year to take extra time – to take four months and play the right way,” said Greenlief, who made the University of Virginia golf team as a walk-on and graduated in 2012. “I’m really excited about seeing if I can build on my world ranking, see how low I can get it.”

Greenlief climbed as high as No. 420 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ last August, and she now sits at No. 446. Her lofty goals include making the 2020 USA Curtis Cup Team and qualifying for the second edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur next April – or at least, as she puts it, “getting my name in the conversation.”  

“I’m going all in on golf this year, which is exciting,” said Greenlief, who works as a management consultant. “My company is very supportive of it, and because it’s unpaid, it’s an easy decision for them. And when I go back to work, I’ll be refreshed, which is good for both of us.”

Greenlief and partner Katie Miller won the Women’s International Four-Ball last year in Wellington, Fla., and qualified for match play at Timuquana, but lost in the Round of 32. For Greenlief, it’s just the start of her competitive season.

“I saw some good things in my swing and putted well on tricky greens,” said Greenlief. “This being our first tournament since the International Four-Ball [in February] and playing under much tougher conditions, I will try and build from here.”

Greenlief shot 71-77 on Monday at Chartiers Country Club in Pittsburgh, falling seven strokes short in her bid to qualify for the 74th U.S. Women’s Open in three weeks at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.). Later this month, she will attempt to qualify for the LPGA Tour’s Pure Silk Championship in Williamsburg, Va.

“I also plan to play in the North & South [at Pinehurst], the Eastern Amateur, the Southern Amateur – events I haven’t played in traditionally,” said Greenlief, who pointed out that the Ladies’ National Golf Association Championship (formerly the Trans-National) will be played at The Golf Club of Tennessee, where she made her strong run in the Women’s Amateur last August. “I think I’m going to be on the road every week from the first week of June through the Women’s Amateur [in early August].”

And just maybe, that road trip will lead to bigger destinations.

Bruce Hepner returned Timuquana C.C. to its original Donald Ross look, including an extensive bunker restoration. (USGA/Russell Kirk)

The Ross Restorer

Bruce Hepner wears many hats as a golf course architect who specializes in restoring classic Donald Ross courses: engineer, earth shaper, negotiator, sleuth, historian. When he first visited Timuquana Country Club, he painstakingly sought clues to the original layout that Ross completed in 1923.

“We had some pretty good aerial photographs taken by the [adjacent] U.S. Navy base,” said Hepner, 59, who grew up in Detroit playing Rackham Golf Course, a public layout designed by Ross. “I also went through the clubhouse, looking at pictures on the walls to see if the golf course was visible in the background. There were no plans or drawings to go by.”

The aerial photos revealed a strategic bunker on the par-4 17th hole, about 60 yards short of the green, that had long ago been filled in. Hepner knew exactly where to restore the bunker, having unearthed sand from the original when he began digging.

“It was more like archeology than architecture,” said Hepner of that find. “Most of my job is finding out what was there, how the course has changed, and what we can restore to make it relevant today.”

Hepner is a busy man. He estimates that he has 20 Ross clients across the country, and he is already booked through 2021. Among the Ross courses he has restored are Detroit Golf Club, Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn., and Essex County Club and Oyster Harbors Club in Massachusetts.

“I grew up playing other sports, but I always loved golf and its architecture,” said Hepner, a graduate of Michigan Tech University who lives in Traverse City, Mich. “I got my engineering degree, read Ron Whitten’s book [The Golf Course] and saw that architects like Seth Raynor and Roger Rulewich were engineers. I thought, maybe I can get into this.”

Hepner started with architect Ron Forse, then was vice president of Tom Doak’s design firm for 17 years. “Things were booming when I started in the late 1980s, and Ron was in the first wave of the restoration movement,” said Hepner. “I built Pacific Dunes, Ballyneal and Cape Kidnappers for Tom, and Streamsong Blue was the last course I ran for him. I’ve been on my own, restoring courses since 2010.”

Timuquana was a reclamation project, having been reworked several times since Ross built it, by Robert Trent Jones Jr., George Cobb and David Gordon. In the late 1990s, architect Bobby Weed began the process of bringing back some of Ross’s features.

“When I first got here, this didn’t look or feel like a Ross course,” said Hepner. “Things had been moved around quite a bit. I think Bobby’s main success was in regrading the fairways, rebuilding the greens and improving the irrigation.”

Hepner oversaw tree removal, bunker restoration and correction of mowing patterns. His familiarity with Ross designs informs him on what to do, and perhaps more importantly, what not to do.

“If something isn’t broken, you don’t fix it,” said Hepner. “Even if you had original Ross plans, some of them were as-built, but others are simply field notes for the builders. As I know well, once you are on-site you are reacting to the site. Ideas are not set in stone.”

One thing Hepner has developed is an even greater appreciation for Ross.

“There is such great variety to his greens,” said Hepner. “Every one is different, with heavy contours, subtle contours. You can’t say with certainty this is a Ross green. What you can say is, ‘That’s a really good green. I bet you Ross built that.’”

Some of the course changes were a bit jarring to the membership.

“The width of the fairways had been lost over time, and we gained that back,” said Hepner. “Some members said, ‘You made it easier by making it wider,’ and I told them, no, we made it more strategic. Now there is ample width to either challenge bunkers or go around them. It’s playable, accessible and still challenging for the good player.”

The course earned rave reviews from the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball field, and those who play Timuquana on a regular basis have also come around.

“I told the members, you’re going to have to rethink your game a little bit, and that’s a good thing,” said Hepner. “Golf is a game of adaptation, and we don’t adapt the course to golfers – they have to adapt to the course. They’ve adapted, and they love it.”

Left-Handed Complement

Erica Shepherd joined Julia Potter-Bobb as the second left-handed player to win multiple USGA championships. Shepherd won the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior and partnered with future Duke University teammate Megan Furtney last week to win the Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. Potter-Bobb won the 2013 and 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateurs. They are the lone female lefties to win a USGA championship. Five left-handed male players have won USGA championships, including Phil Mickelson (1990 U.S. Amateur), but all of them have just one victory. Mickelson is a six-time runner-up in the U.S. Open.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

More From the 5th U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball