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Amateur power: Lee impresses at U.S. Women's Open

Local golfer’s strong finish at U.S. Women’s Open finds her among some notable company

Posted: July 12, 2009 10:06 p.m.
Updated: July 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia resident Alison Lee hits a shot from the fairway during the U.S. Women's Open Sunday at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.

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Alison Lee never saw this coming.

The 14-year-old Valencia resident slipped into the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open Championship by barely winning a sectional qualifier in Santa Cruz on June 15.

She just wanted to gain experience.

“I didn’t even think about making the cut,” Lee said. “My parents were planning sightseeing stuff to do Saturday and Sunday.”

There was plenty to see, all right.

Lee shot a 1-under 70 in the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open to finish tied for 26th at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.

Eun Hee Ji won the tournament with an even-par 284.

It was Lee’s best round of the weekend, and her 9-over 293 for the tournament equaled the final score of Lorena Ochoa, who is currently the top-ranked women’s golfer in the world.

“It feels different than what it actually is,” Lee said. “Right now it doesn’t feel like I actually did that.”

Lee also tied seven-time major champion Juli Inkster, defending Open champion Inbee Park and fellow amateur Jessica Korda, along with two other golfers.

Jennifer Song shot a 7-over 291 to record the best score by an amateur.

“I think I played really well (Sunday),” Lee said. “A lot of things were going my way. They moved up the tees on a lot of the holes, so it played shorter. That’s an advantage for me because I don’t hit it as long as these girls.”

The decision to move up the tees was made by Mike Davis, the United States Golf Association’s head of rules and competitions, who wanted lower scores and a more exciting final round.

One of the holes most affected by the decision was No. 18, where Lee had bogeyed on Thursday and Friday and double-bogeyed on Saturday.

Lee managed a par on Sunday.

“On 18, they moved the tees up 40 yards,” she said. “All three days before I kind of pulled it. (Sunday) I tried to not think about it and I hit it in the middle of the fairway.”

Lee also birdied No. 17, where she had bogeyed the last two days.

“All three days before I actually went in the bunker,” Lee said. “Thankfully they moved up the tees about 50 yards. I hit a pitching wedge so it was a lot different, a lot easier for me.”

Lee was 1-over on the front nine, but she sharpened her game on the back nine and also birdied No. 14 to finish the round 1-under.

“On this course, shooting even par is really good,” Lee said. “The conditions are hard. The fairways are narrow, the greens are fast and the rough was really thick, especially the first two days.”

Other than negotiating the harsh conditions, Lee cherished the opportunity to watch the professionals up close.

“Watching all those pros, the way they practice, the way they read their putts, I think I learned a lot,” she said.

Lee is ranked No. 9 nationally among juniors in the American Junior Golf Association’s Polo Golf Rankings.

The soon-to-be freshman will now turn her attention toward the McDonald’s Betsy Rawls Girls Championship, which begins today and runs through Thursday at White Manor Country Club in Malvern, Pa.

“I want to say thank you to Valencia Country Club for allowing me to practice at their facility,” Lee said. “Dan Decker, Tom Ferguson, Paul Major, Bob Husband, those are the people that helped me and let me practice there. Being able to practice there helped a lot.”

jgulino@the-signal.com

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