WAPL will be Somerset County course’s first USGA championship May 14, 2012 By David Shefter, USGA

A view of the par-4 first hole on the Meadow Nine at Neshanic Valley, which is hosting the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. (Russell Kirk/USGA)

Neshanic Station, N.J. – For the last two years, the staff of the Neshanic Valley Golf Course, one of five layouts operated by the Somerset County Parks Commission, has been diligently preparing for its national debut.

The facility, which opened in the fall of 2004 and features 27 holes designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan, will host the 36th U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship from June 18-23.

The Meadow and Lake Nines (the Ridge Nine is not being used) are expected to provide a stern test for 156 of the best female public-course golfers.

We think the star of the show is going to be the golf course, said Bob Ransone, deputy director of golf operations for the Somerset County Parks Commission, at the championship’s media day on May 15. We’re going to show the world why New Jersey is called the Garden State. They are going to come out here and see a spectacular golf course.

The championship will be played over a course measuring 6,195 yards to a par of 72. Defending champion Brianna Do will not return, as she is expected to turn pro after UCLA concludes its season on May 26. However, USA Curtis Cup Team members Tiffany Lua, Lisa McCloskey (2010 WAPL runner-up) and Emily Tubert (2010 WAPL champion) have entered and will look to add their names to the illustrious list of champions that includes Yani Tseng (currently No. 1 player in the world), Michelle Wie, Pearl Sinn and Tiffany Joh.

It meant so much to me, said Joh of winning the WAPL in 2006 and 2008, which makes her one of five multiple winners since the championship’s inception in 1977. Winning in 2006 was such a big [thing]. First of all, it was a surprise. And it was a really big confidence booster. Winning again in 2008 was even more of a surprise.

The San Diego native is best known for her laid-back personality and self-deprecating sense of humor, which were on display when she took a break from practicing for the Sybase Match Play Championship at nearby Hamilton Farm Golf Club to attend media day. When Rhonda Glenn of the USGA referred to an LPGA Tour questionnaire about which actor would play her in a movie, Joh responded, Eddie Murphy. He’s really versatile.

As for the course itself, Teresa Belmont, the director of the Women’s Amateur Public Links for the USGA, said she loves Neshanic’s variety of holes. When she made her initial site visit, Belmont played the Meadow Nine for the first time. Some thought the Meadow might be too short, but once Belmont toured the layout, she was immediately impressed.

I liked the first hole, then I liked the second and I liked the third, the par 3, she said. Then I got to seven and I really liked it.

The Meadow will serve as the first nine and the Lake the second nine for match play. Both sides close with a par 5, with No. 18 a reachable 469-yard hole that plays uphill and requires a carry over an environmentally sensitive area, one of many throughout the two nines.

The ninth on Lake [18th for the championship] has a very difficult second shot, said Belmont. It was one of the hardest holes to set up. You have to put the players in the right spot for the second shot.

Belmont added that Neshanic, which also features a short course and a spacious practice range, is ready for its close-up.

Neshanic has been wonderful, she said. We started two years ago and [the committees] have been meeting monthly … and it will show in June. The dedication and the work they have done here have been tremendous. It’s been an honor to work with Neshanic.

David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.