Notebook: 2006 Women
By Beth Murrison and David Shefter, USGA
Carefree, Ariz. – Thuhashini Selvaratnam had a 12:57 p.m. first-round tee time at Desert Forest, her home course, on Saturday. But before heading to the first tee for the first round of the 2007 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, she had another important appointment.
Robin Weiss Donnelley (left) and Thuhashini Selvaratnam address the young girls from the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf of Phoenix program who attended the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Saturday. (Beth Murrison/USGA)
Some 20 participants from the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf program of Phoenix came to Desert Forest, as did several players from the girls’ golf team at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, where Selvaratnam serves as assistant coach.
Selvaratnam gave the young junior golfers some details of her unique background, which includes winning a national championship in her native Sri Lanka at age 12, and offered some words of encouragement.
“Keep working at it,” said Selvaratnam, a former standout at Arizona State University, where she helped the Sun Devils win three NCAA Division I titles. “It’s a lot of work. Be patient.”
Selvaratnam, the runner-up at the Women’s Mid-Amateur a year ago, was joined by fellow Desert Forest member Robin Weiss Donnelley at the program. Donnelley, the 1989 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and a three-time USA Curtis Cupper, gave the girls an overview of the Women’s Mid-Amateur’s history and format. She didn’t qualify for this week’s championship but will be on hand throughout the week as a volunteer.
After the program concluded, the attendees enjoyed lunch and received goodie bags before heading to the golf course to watch the action. As Selvaratnam headed down the fairway after teeing off at the first hole, there was a nice gallery of the program’s participants following along to watch her play.
Selvaratnam finished at 6-over-par 79 in the afternoon’s windy conditions.
It had been 18 years since Lara Tennant had struck a golf ball in the state of Arizona. That was back when she competed as Lara Mack for the University of Arizona women’s golf team. Since graduating in 1999, Tennant has moved back to Portland, Ore., gotten married and had five children. The only time she returned to Arizona prior to this week at Desert Forest was for a team reunion in Tucson.
That was until Friday, when she played a practice round in preparation for the Women’s Mid-Amateur. On Saturday, she opened with a respectable 4-over-par 77 on a style of course she doesn’t see too often in Oregon. She’s a member at Waverley Country Club, a classic tree-lined course.
“Playing at Arizona, this [desert-style golf] is very comfortable for me, especially when you compare [Desert Forest] to some of the courses we played in Tucson like La Paloma and Ventana [Canyon]. This is comfortable out here. It probably has to do with all those hours of golf in college.”
Tennant has had success when playing in familiar territory. She made the match-play cut in the two recent U.S. Women’s Amateurs held in Oregon: 2000 at her home club of Waverley and 2006 at Pumpkin Ridge. She also competed for Oregon at last week’s USGA Women’s State Team Championship in Texas.
“That’s part of the reason I thought this was a good tournament to come to not only because of the location, but because those two [events] were back to back,” said Tennant. “I don’t play very much golf at all [because of my family]. But I love coming to events like these because it’s a really good challenge.”
Her Own Big Break
As a production assistant at The Golf Channel, Jessica Branch has had the opportunity to work on such shows as the Big Break IV Carnoustie, Playing Lessons from the Pros and Personal Lessons from the Pros. The 26-year-old has absorbed a lot and it’s one reason why she’s one of the 132 competitors at the Women’s Mid-Amateur this week.
The 26-year-old Branch played sparingly at Florida Southern University. But working on the shows at TGC, especially the instructional ones, has invigorated her interest in the game.
“I’ve learned so much on the instructional shows,” said Branch, who carded a respectable 7-over 80 Saturday. “That’s the only reason I’m back out here.”
Recently, Branch has helped produce shows with Scott McCarron, Steve Flesch, Jim Thorpe, Beth Daniel and Amy Alcott. She also did a Playing Lesson with five-time USGA champion Hale Irwin.
“It really does [help],” said Branch. “It makes me think about a golf course differently than I ever approached it before.”
But don’t look for Branch to take over on Golf Central. She has no grandiose plans to get in front of the cameras.
“Unless I’m playing golf, then I’ll be in front of the camera,” said Branch.
Should she continue to advance this week, that could happen. TGC’s Adam Barr will file reports for Golf Central from the championship beginning on Tuesday.