Alessandra Liu and Jackie Rogowicz had to admit that they had let their minds wander about the possibility of teeing it up in a U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club.
Well, Wednesday they made that some-day dream come true by earning spots in the field at Rolling Green at a qualifier held at soggy Hawk Pointe Golf Club in Washington, N.J.
A day earlier, two other local women punched their tickets to Rolling Green as Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion as a senior at Chichester, and Unionville product Kate Evanko earned their way into the field in a qualifier held at Kenwood Golf & Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
At Hawk Pointe Wednesday, there were 55 women vying for five spots in the field at Rolling Green. They were greeted by a golf course inundated by four inches of rain Tuesday night into early Wednesday. The course was so overwhelmed by the rain that tournament officials took the unusual step of declaring every bunker on the course ground under repair.
It didn’t bother Liu. The former Lower Merion standout, who qualified for the NCAA Tournament as an individual as a senior at William & Mary this spring, carded a 2-under 70 to finish in a tie for second behind medalist August Kim, a senior at Purdue and the Big Ten individual champion who carded a 3-under 69.
It was something of a secret as to how long the par-72 layout was Wednesday, but it was probably somewhere in between the 5,973-yard reserve tees and the 6,444-yard blue tees listed on the scorecard.
“It’s been in the back of mind ever since they announced the Amateur was coming to Rolling Green, how ever many years ago,” said Liu, a three-time PIAA qualifier at Lower Merion.
She admitted she likes courses designed by the legendary William Flynn.
“I’m a Flynn fan,” Liu said. “I played Rolling Green once last year, well and the front nine once in a Central League match. I like Huntingdon Valley, that’s another one.”
The 22-year-old Liu is anxious to get another opportunity at the U.S. Amateur after a four-shot penalty cost her a chance at match play last summer at Portland Country Club. After marking her ball on the green, she replaced it and it moved. She was assessed a two-shot penalty and when she said it had happened earlier in the round, it became four shots. She missed match play by a shot.
She tells the story without a trace of bitterness, simply placing it in the lesson-learned file.
Liu was a nice player at Lower Merion, but she has taken her game to a new level in the last year-and-a-half.
“My first couple of years at William & Mary, the academics were rigorous and there wasn’t as much time to practice,” said Liu, who plays out of Commonwealth National Golf Club. “Then in my junior year, everything just sort of came together. I started hitting my shots closer to the hole. I started scoring in the 70s consistently and then I started breaking 70 on occasion.”
Liu has never taken a lesson and doesn’t have a swing coach. She learned the game from her dad and she still turns to him to help her with her game.
Liu opened her round Wednesday with birdies at the first and second holes to jump-start her bid to make it to Rolling Green. She added birdies at six and 13 to offset bogeys at eight and 17. She shared second place with Kelly Whaley, a sophomore at North Carolina from Cromwell, Conn. and Isabella Fierro of Mexico.
Liu plans to turn pro later this summer and see how far her game takes her.
“I do want to play some more,” she said.
There was one more spot up for grabs at Hawk Pointe and Rogowicz, a two-time District One champion and two-time PIAA runnerup at Pennsbury, three-putted the 18th for a bogey that left her tied for that last spot with Christina Parsells of Bernardsville, N.J. and Georgetown.
After both players parred the par-5 first hole, they moved to the par-4 eighth. Parsells chunked her approach short of the green while Rogowicz’s shot stayed on the left side of the green, 45 feet from the hole. Parsells couldn’t hold the green with her chip, which settled on the back fringe.
“It was really a pretty straight putt,” said Rogowicz, coming off a very solid freshman season at Penn State. “I had that three-putt at 18 and I blew my first putt on the first playoff hole five feet by, so I really just concentrated on speed.”
Her masterful lag putt nearly went in, but she settled for a tap-in par and when Parsells couldn’t hole her chip from the back of the green, Rogowicz was in.
Rogowicz teamed with former Mount St. Joseph standout Isabella DiLisio a year ago in the Francis X. Hussey Memorial, an annual junior better-ball event held at Rolling Green each summer. They made seven birdies and an eagle for a better-ball round of 8-under 63.
“It was just a chance to play another great Philly area course,” said Rogowicz, who grew up playing out of Yardley Country Club. “There are so many of them. Oh, I guess in the back of my mind, I knew the Amateur was coming there.”
Rogowicz qualified for the 2014 U.S. Amateur at Nassau Country Club, got in a playoff for match play, but did not survive.
There were several other locals who teed it up at Hawk Pointe Wednesday.
It was not a good day for Brynn Walker, the recent Radnor High graduate who won the last two PIAA Class AAA individual titles. Walker carded a 5-over 77. She had a month-long stretch that included a run to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship with her pal Madelein Herr and teeing it up in an LPGA event after earning a spot in the ShopRite LPGA Classic at the Jersey Shore.
She has become close friends with Whaley, the daughter of Suzy Whaley, a Connecticut professional who teed it up in the PGA Tour’s Greater Hartford Open in 2003 after winning the 2002 Connecticut PGA title. Kelly Whaley kept Walker abreast of the trials of her freshman season at North Carolina, so Walker will be prepared when she joins the program later this summer.
Agnes Irwin junior Kaitlyn Lees, coming off winning her second straight Pennsylvania Junior Girls’ Championship Tuesday in Hershey, also carded a 77.
Rogowicz’s fellow Penn State sophomore Cara Basso, the PIAA Class AA champion as a sophomore at Villa Maria, had a 78. Rogowicz, Basso and Lauren Waller, who lost in a playoff to Walker for the 2014 PIAA Class AAA title, formed a trio of fabulous freshmen for Denise St. Pierre’s Nittany Lions last season.
Former Springfield standout Samantha Miller had a 79. And Conestoga sophomore Samantha Yao had an 83.
Tuesday at Kenwood, Kan, who had an outstanding collegiate career at Purdue, claimed medalist honors with a 69. Kan teamed with Walker and former Penn State standout Ellen Ceresko to help Pennsylvania finish third in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship at Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau, Mo. last year.
Kan, the 2010 Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur champion, just missed reaching the quarterfinals in the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Country Club of Charleston. She dropped a 1-up decision to Katelyn Sepmoree of Tyler, Texas in the round of 16.
Evanko, who plays out of Radley Run Country Club, carded a 70 to punch her ticket to Rolling Green.
Walker’s partner in the first two U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championships, recent Council Rock North graduate Madelein Herr, is one of the alternates out of Kenwood as she posted a 72. It appears that Herr lost out in a three-way playoff for the fifth and final spot out of Kenwood. Herr will join Rogowicz, Basso and Waller at Penn State later this summer.