Bailey Tardy (Georgia Athletics photo)
The golf world saw little of Bailey Tardy
last year. Tardy’s junior season at the University of Georgia was eaten up by two injuries – one that healed quickly, and one that nagged so long that Tardy was forced to consider a life without golf.
This summer presented several signs that Tardy is back to her usual self. The 22-year-old won the Georgia Women’s Amateur wire-to-wire and was third at the Georgia Women’s Open (which also made her the low amateur). At the U.S. Women’s Amateur, she ended a spectacular summer run by junior powerhouse Yealimi Noh in a 23-hole match that demanded precision from every aspect of her game. Tardy fell to eventual champion Kristen Gillman in the third round.
“It was great experience and to be in that situation, really that was my goal – to have difficult matches and test my ability to see where my game is,” Tardy said in reflection.
Two weeks later, Tardy finished T-46 at the first stage of the LPGA and Symetra Tour Qualifying Tournament to easily advance to the next round. Tardy remains an amateur and started her senior season at Georgia this month.
Tardy was part of a freshman class that revived Bulldog golf in the fall of 2015. Georgia won five times behind Tardy, Jillian Hollis and Rinko Mitsunaga. That included an NCAA Regional. Hollis decided to forego her senior season in Athens, Ga., to begin a professional career, so Tardy will be the Bulldogs’ big gun.
Tardy also gave Q-School a shot last fall, but didn’t make it through the first stage. She got surgery for a nagging foot injury just before Thanksgiving and was fully cleared to return to the course (sans walking boot) the first week of December. She fell and broke her wrist the second week of January and what was supposed to be a four-to-six week recovey spanned eight months. Tardy’s left index finger suffered the brunt of the injury, and it was unable to bear the stress of an interlocking grip. Tardy physically couldn’t grip the golf club for months.
Ultimately, Tardy only appeared in the Georgia lineup twice last season.
Without her go-to method for stress relief, Tardy was forced for the first time in her adult life to look beyond golf. She interned with Morgan-Stanley in Atlanta over the summer and fleshed out a “plan B.”
“I must say it was a good break,” Tardy said. “I wasn’t worn out but I will say, it kind of just opened my eyes to see that if golf doesn’t work out, then what are you going to do? If I do get a golf-ending injury, then I do need to have a back-up plan.”
Far from sending Tardy permanently away from the course, the break – and the internship in particular – brought her back with a renewed drive. She also discovered that office life isn’t for her – she loves the outdoors (specifically, a golf course) way too much.
Georgia hasn’t been to the NCAA Women’s Championship as a team since Tardy was a freshman. That’s a baby step that Tardy wants to initative this spring. From there? Who knows.
“You can’t win without being there so I would definitely say just putting well enough, making it through regionals and making smaller steps at the time,” she said.
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SCHOOLED BY AN AMATEUR: Yujeong Son’s
victory at the first stage of the LPGA and Symetra Tour Qualifying Tournament on Aug. 26 is worth noting after the winter season Son had. She defended her title at the Dixie Women’s Amateur and won the Harder Hall. She tied for 15th at the inaugural Asia-Pacific Women’s Amateur and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open but missed the cut.
“It’s surreal right now and not actually getting to me yet that I won,” Son told the LPGA after the tournament. “I’m excited about winning and it gives me a lot of confidence going into Stage II. I just wanted to make the cut and move, but to win and play how I played really is a boost to my game.”
Son, a native of South Korea who now lives in Norman, Okla., said even after her winter victories that she had an eye on professional golf. She plans to bypass college for the LPGA. She is completing her final high school credits through an online program and is on track to graduate in December.
A new LPGA policy is in place this year that allows a player to delay turning professional until July 1 if she earns full LPGA status at the Q-Series, the last of three qualifying stages. A player who earns Symetra Tour status can turn professional at any point in the calendar year and still accept her Symetra status.
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ALL EYES ON: WORLD AMATEUR TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP:
The Women’s World Amateur Team Championship began Wednesday at Carton House in Dublin, Ireland. The men are scheduled to compete at the same venue next week.
Carton House belongs to an Irish-American businessman, but it’s a property whose ownership can be traced back to 1176 even though the two golf courses and hotel only opened in 2005. The 1,100-acre walled estate stretches across two counties: Kildare and Meath.
A record number of countries entered the competitions this year, which speaks well for the worldwide growth of golf. A total of 58 entries were received for the Espirito Santo Trophy competition and 71 entries for the Eisenhower Trophy competition, one shy of the record of 72 set in Turkey in 2012. In Mexico in 2016, a total of 55 teams competed for the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship. For the women, Lebanon is making its first appearance while Bulgaria is making its second appearance after its 2016 debut.
We’re intrigued to watch Arizona State junior (and Curtis Cup star) Olivia Mehaffey
compete for Ireland at home. Korea will attempt to defend its title, but the U.S. team is made up of the top 3 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. That includes U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman
, who represented the U.S. at this event in 2014 as well.
College golf is well-represented this week in Ireland, too. Some of the most familiar names include Stanford’s Albane Valenzuela
(Switzerland), Washington’s Wenyung Keh
and Julianne Alvarez
(New Zealand), Houston’s Leonie Harm
(Germany), Indianapolis’ Pilar Echeverria (Guatemala), Kent State’s Karoline Stormo
(Norway) and Ohio State’s Jaclyn Lee
(Canada), among others.
Interestingly, Alex Fitzpatrick
, a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Amateur, declined the opportunity to play for England because it would have meant missing his first week on campus at Wake Forest. It’s admirable commitment, even though it brought him under Twitter fire.
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PODCAST: ALL EARS ON PETE
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TWEET OF THE WEEK: WHERE GOLF MEETS POP CULTURE
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO…
Cole Hammer, Western Am champion, who turned 19 on Aug. 28 (and if you missed our deep dive on Hammer’s summer, find it here
• • •
The AmateurGolf.com notebook usually features a “five questions with…” segment with a player who had a particularly good round or a significant tournament win. But with the U.S. Senior Amateur underway this week at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club, we’re taking the opportunity to soak up the wisdom of the veterans who have been playing this game for decades. Compliments to the USGA for picking the brains of the Senior Amateur competitors this week. Here are the highlights:
Co-medalist Jeff Wilson, of Fairfield, Calif., on the disappointment of not making match play at the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach two weeks ago:
“It wasn’t even the kids. I was more intimidated having [18-time major champion] Jack Nicklaus watching me (son Gary was in his grouping during stroke play). It was probably a four-shot penalty, but I wouldn’t trade it. It was pretty cool having him out there.”
John Grace, of Fort Worth, Texas, on winning a match at the age of 70:
“I’m having fun. I don’t feel 70. I really hit it well. I kept it in play all day and made very few mistakes.”
Co-medalist Greg Condon, of Monte Vista, Colo., on tournament venue Eugene Country Club:
“My hat’s off to everyone here. This golf course is just fabulous. I don’t play on courses like this. It’s like a slice of heaven.”
2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and 2015 USA Walker Cup competitor Michael McCoy, of Des Moines, Iowa, on joining the 55-and-over senior amateur circuit this year:
“It keeps you getting out of bed and going to the gym and hitting balls after work to keep your game sharp. It is a nice thing to be able to keep competing. Even though they’re all a little older, they are all good friends. We’ll all go into the players’ lounge and have a glass of wine together tonight. So it’s pretty cool. You don’t do that at the U.S. Am.”
Defending champion Sean Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa., on the strength of the eight Senior Amateur quarterfinalists (which included four past USGA champions)
“It’s all star. At the Players' Dinner, I said three things, and one was a guarantee that whomever wins this championship, it won’t be easy. It’s not easy. You are playing people with great resumés. And I am just lucky to be where I am.”