This week Golf4Her will have four ambassadors playing in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National in Bedminster, NJ: Mo Martin, Tiffany Joh, Marina Alex, and Jane Park. We were lucky enough to have them stop by at Anchor Golf after our “Say Yes to Golf Event” on Monday, where women who want to start playing golf participated in a half day clinic.
During a Q&A, we asked our pros a few questions about how they prepare for a U.S. Women’s Open, how they got into golf, and why they love this game
Tiffany, how do you go from playing a tournament in Wisconsin, where you finished T-6, to preparing for a U.S. Open?
Tiffany: Well obviously the course last week was really easy to make birdies. It’s kind of a different mindset in a major setup than a regular LPGA event. Regardless I try to prepare for every tournament pretty similar. Just because it’s a U.S. Open I try not to do anything super different…except this week I will do things a little different than the last tournament because I didn’t play a practice round because I flew home to San Diego to surf and eat tacos and played with a rental set during my pro-am because my clubs didn’t arrive on time. Tomorrow I will go out and take a look at the golf course, but at this point it’s conserving energy, especially at a major because it’s a long a week.
Does the adrenaline get to you guys?
Tiffany: Yeah, I think a little bit of nerves, but I think if you’re nervous, you don’t care. I think it’s good to be nervous because it brings out the best in yourself.
Would you rather play in the U.S. Open with someone you’re a good friend with, or someone you don’t speak to all during a round?
Mo: Tiffany and I are playing in a practice round tomorrow together, and we give ourselves a 25 yard buffer.
Marina, now you’re from the New Jersey area, how does it feel coming here and playing so close to home?
Marina: It’s really cool. This experience will never happen again, so I am just trying to soak it in.
How is the course playing? For those of us who don’t play tournament courses, how does it play compared to regular golf courses?
Marina: I think with Opens, whether it’s the British or U.S. Open, you’re just trying to find the best place to be in your approach to the green. So asking yourself, where is the easiest place to make par from. Sometimes it’s short, or sometimes it’s long, and you have to figure that out ahead of time because with courses like this they’ll try to get you into a position where you have a really quick putt downhill, or have to chip to one side of the green to the other and it’s low percentage to get up and down. Basically you’re trying to strategize, as compared to a regular week if you’re five yards long it’s not the end of the world.
Jane, what are the strengths of your game?
Jane: Well, I think all of us up here are pretty good drivers of the ball. I know Mo is ranked number one in driving accuracy, and I’m ranked in the top 10. That definitely makes golf a lot easier when you’re able to hit it in the short grass most of the time. For a week like this, in my opinion, I think the fairways are pretty generous for a U.S. Open. Typically, when you think U.S. Open you’re thinking pretty narrow fairways, but it’s very generous. Some of the holes you definitely want to err on the right or left side of the fairway. But for approach shots into the green you have to make sure you’re hitting into the right section because the greens are extremely large.
How did you all get into golf?
Tiffany: I didn’t grow up in a golf family. My dad was a professor at San Diego State and they had a free junior golf program right next to campus, so in the summers he would just drop me off because it was free babysitting. Then I got more competitive over the years, and just sort of fell into the game.
Mo: I got started pretty young. I have a brother who is four years older than I am, and I was super competitive with him: wanted to eat more than he ate, wanted to sleep next to him, and dress like him. It’s really interesting because a lot of female athletes have older brothers, so I think there’s something to be said about that. So anyway, he came home with a trophy and that was pretty much it for me because I also wanted a trophy. And then my dad told me I was too young and that I was a girl, and little did he know that that sealed my fate forever. Cause I was like, “Now for sure I’m doing this.”
Marina: My dad got me started when I was young and he played a lot of amateur golf. I think it was always a dream for him to have his kids play. He took me to the range all the time, and when I was 14 years-old he took me to Hamilton Farms to watch the match play when I was young, and I remember watching Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, and they were just unbelievable and I thought, “This is so cool. I want to try to do this.” I’ve been in love with it since.
Jane: My story is very similar to Marina’s. My father took me to the range when I was 13 years-old and my older brother used to play golf as well. He quit as a senior in high school though, and I kind of took the torch and I wanted to go to UCLA, and I ended up earning a scholarship there and played with Tiffany on the same team. I left after one year, and have been playing professionally ever since.
How do you handle the emotion of playing an event like this and keeping yourself together?
Jane: I think every player has their own way of coping with pressure. For me, I used to get pretty hot headed on the course, and F bombs would fly under my breath or out loud, and thankfully I haven’t gotten fined. But I’ve cried on the course more than once. I mean, it’s such a frustrating game and you find your emotions get the best of you, but the older I get, the better I am at managing them. I still struggle with it everyday, so I typically like to rest as much as I can before the tournament starts.
Marina: I notice the couple times I’ve been playing well, and getting near the lead, I get really amped up because I want to get as close as I can to winning the tournament. That is something I have to learn more over time, to just be able to reign it in. Sometimes after a tournament though, I am so exhausted mentally because I am on such a roller-coaster of emotion. Trying to win a tournament is not easy.
Jane: Yeah, during a tournament you don’t really feel it mentally until after you’re done playing.
Marina: If you’re not managing your emotions, it can change your grip pressure, your tempo of your swing, and your energy. It can feel like you just ran a marathon.
Mo: For me it’s super clear that this is the greatest game on the planet. When Michael Jordan says it’s the hardest sport he’s ever played, you know it’s tough. There’s a big emotional, physical, and mental component to this sport. I think the the beautiful thing about the game is that it’s incredibly difficult, but it’s the most rewarding. For everyone, it exposes how you get stuck emotionally. I used to be super impatient, so golf for me has taught me how to be patient. It can reveal so much about yourself.
The players all agreed that adrenaline is a big part of playing in events like this, and that they try to recognize when their emotions are high. The most important thing that they try to take out of playing though, especially in events like the U.S. Open, is to soak it all in and enjoy it.
Our brand ambassadors are super friendly, so please go out to the tournament to support and cheer them on!
First round tee times:
Follow live scoring: http://www.lpga.com/leaderboard
Mo Martin: 2014 Women’s British Open Champion. Played collegiate golf UCLA where she recorded seven top-20 finishes and was a member of the winning 2004 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship team. Turned professional in 2006, and earned her LPGA tour card in 2011.
Marina Alex: Rookie year, 2013. Played college golf at Vanderbilt University, where she was Inducted in the 2015 class of Vanderbilt’s Hall of Fame. Her best major finish is at the 2014 RICOH Women’s British Open, where she finished 9th.
Tiffany Joh: Joh was named to the 2008 U.S. Curtis Cup team, and was a two-time winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship (2006, 2008). She played college golf at UCLA, and played in the major Kraft Nabisco as an amateur in college. Her best finish on tour is T-6 at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
Jane Park: 2004 U.S. Am Champion, and later and in 2003 as an amateur tied for 30th at the U.S. Women’s Open. Best finish on tour was a tie for second at the season-opening SBS Open at TurtleBay and P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q. Hammons, where she also recorded a career-low 62 in the final round.
by Anya Alvarez
Contributing Journalist, Golf4Her.com