Marksbury Takes on Different Role at Women’s Mid-Am October 3, 2015 | Choudrant, La. By Stuart Hall

Jessica Marksbury can often be seen as a USGA correspondent during national championships. At Squire Creek, she's inside the ropes. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

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Jessica Marksbury is becoming a familiar face at USGA championships.

As an associate editor for Golf Magazine, host of the publication’s online “Tour Confidential” show and as a special correspondent for select USGA championships, Marksbury, 30, of Calimesa, Calif., has reported on national championships since 2007.

This week’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Squire Creek Country Club represents a first. Instead of telling the stories, she is one of the stories.

In her third year of attempting to qualify, Marksbury made the 132-player field after shooting an 83 in the Sept. 1 qualifier at North Jersey Country Club in Wayne, N.J.

"There is a lot more anxiety this week than I have ever had doing those pieces [for print and online],” she said. “That comes a lot more easily because I can control it. Whereas this preparation [to play] has been a lot more difficult because as much as I feel like I have prepared, you just never know what you might face or what it’s going to be like out there."

She carries the same expectations into this week as she did into the qualifier.

“I think there were 27 women in my qualifier and 10 got in,” she said. “The odds seemed great and the goal seemed attainable. It’s not like the U.S. Women’s Amateur where you have to shoot under par.

“I know I can shoot two rounds of 80 on a long course. I just have to avoid disaster, and if I can do that, I feel like I can make match play. I feel my game is a 7 ½ out of 10. But it was the same at the qualifier and other than a disaster with the triple bogey, I played pretty much like we had strategized.”

Marksbury admits her length off the tee will put her at a slight disadvantage. Her caddie and husband, Paul Griffin, says she has strengths that will negate the lack of length.

“I think she will do well,” said Griffin, 37, a teaching professional at Tam O’Shanter Country Club in Brookville, N.Y. “I could see her making match play. The course is particularly tough around the greens, and that plays to her advantage because whether you have a long or short iron in, they don’t exactly hold. So everyone is going to have to have a really good short game to make it to the match play and that plays to her strengths.”

Marksbury, who now lives in Huntington, N.Y., took to golf at age 7 with a swing her father, Greg, jokingly says she still possesses. At 15 she dropped soccer, swimming and track to focus on the game.

Her college and career paths were a series of connected happenstances. 

Marksbury originally planned to visit Georgetown University as part of a three-school East Coast swing, but that idea was nixed at the last minute. The visit was replaced by one to Columbia University, which was forming a women’s golf program and had contacted Marksbury about being part of its inaugural class of players.

“I had never heard of Columbia growing up,” said Marksbury, who was encouraged to apply for admission after meeting Associate Athletics Director Al Carlson, who doubled as the women’s coach. Upon returning to California, Marksbury applied and was accepted.

The Lions’ coaching staff later helped Marksbury get a summer job as a junior golf instructor at Maidstone Club in East Hampton, N.Y. Once there, Marksbury met Griffin and made business connections with Golf Magazine editors during a course photo shoot. That led to an internship and her eventual hiring.

“My path was set, for sure,” she said.

Marksbury admitted that being the interviewee instead of the interviewer was a bit odd. She tried to avoid giving a cliché answer that she often hears.

“And it happens a lot,” she said. “In doing all the major championships, I’ll ask ‘What is it going to take for tomorrow?’ I hear: ‘Well, I am going to keep doing what I’m doing. Got to take it shot by shot.’ Also, giving vague answers. Everything has to be specific, because that’s what editors want and ultimately that’s what the [reader or viewer] wants.”

When asked what one question she would ask herself, Marksbury paused.

“You asked me a good question earlier about expectations, and I think I gave you a specific answer: Two rounds of 80. I expect that and I want that to happen.”

Only 36 holes of stroke play will give the ultimate answer.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.

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