Local Ku Advances To Match Play At WAPL June 18, 2012 | Neshanic Station, N.J. By Kelly O'Shea, USGA

Hana Ku of Basking Ridge, N.J., used some of her local knowledge of Neshanic Valley G.C. to qualify for match play in a 4-for-3 playoff on Tuesday. (Hunter Martin/USGA)

New Jersey’s very own Hana Ku, 16, of Basking Ridge is taking advantage of home-course knowledge this week at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at Neshanic Valley Golf Course.

While she no longer is a full-time member of the Somerset County public venue that is hosting its first national championship, Ku certainly knows the layout well. While that expertise didn’t translate in the first round of qualifying on Monday, where she shot a 4-over 76, Ku rallied on Tuesday to shoot a 73 and then survived a 4-for-3 playoff prior to sunset to earn a spot in the 64-player match-play draw.

Ku faces stroke-play medalist and 2012 USA Curtis Cup member Lisa McCloskey of Houston on Wednesday.

"Today I felt like I putted a lot better, I was a lot calmer out on the golf course so it’s all about extending what I did today into tomorrow and keeping with my own game plan," said Ku.

This isn’t Ku’s first trip to a USGA championship. She competed in both the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur Public Links, but missed the match-play cut both times.

Her experience in last year’s WAPL at Bandon Dunes was beneficiary for her preparations in 2012. I’m just going to gain on that experience, make sure I’m still sticking to my own game plan and not worry about what other people do, and then we’ll see what happens, said Ku, who was a full-range member at Neshanic Valley from 2007 to 2009 before finances forced her to drop the membership. She still plays and practices at the course.

"It was a really great experience, especially when you’re growing into the game, I learned a lot from those years," said Ku. "I’m pretty familiar with the staff and I’m really glad that I have their support this week."

Being familiar with the course, it would seem that Ku has a distinct advantage over the other players, especially those hailing from out of state, but Ku doesn’t see it that way.

Sure I know some parts of the greens and fairways a little better, she said, but it still boils down to what you do on that day, how you handle yourself and how you finish.

Yet, what truly sets Ku apart from her competitors is her ties to the USGA. For the past three years, Ku has worked at the USGA Museum, assisting the photo archive department. It’s been rewarding beyond words, really, said Ku.

"I’ve learned so much in such a professional setting. This was my first time volunteering in that kind of office setting so I’ve learned a lot about how to handle those kinds of situations and scenarios. And then just to be able to know more about the history of the game, the whole experience is just beyond words and I’m so thankful for the opportunity."

Kelly O’Shea is a communications intern for the USGA. Email her at ko’shea@usga.org.