Old Waverly Golf Club (USGA photo)
Scroll through all the dreamy pictures of Mississippi State’s barn-style practice facility built in 2014 – the hitting bays, the team rooms, the sprawling Mississippi Black Prairie setting – and an unassuming button appears. In the thumbs-up, thumbs-down world of social media, Mississippi State simply chose this word instead: appreciate.
Give it a tap and you put you heart on a project Ginger Brown-Lemm already put her heart into. Facilities can go a long way in defining a program, and Mississippi State is a good example of that. “The barn,” as it’s affectionately called, stands between two top southern courses: Mossy Oak Golf Club and Old Waverly Golf Club. The latter hosts the U.S. Women’s Amateur this week.
Since so much recruiting happens in June and July, Brown-Lemm hadn’t seen much of Old Waverly in the past 60 days as USGA championship officials moved in to make it Women’s Am-ready.
“To see how they had manicured and grown it in and, oh, it’s so beautiful,” she said. “You just forget. You forget how stunning a place it is.”
The history of Old Waverly isn’t very long, but it’s thick. The course was founded in 1988 on the site of the historic Waverly Mansion. Georgia Bryan and his family were looking to build a world-class golf destination in Mississippi and enlisted U.S. Open winner Jerry Pate and course designer Bob Cupp to craft it out of an undeveloped 360 acres of pasture. Old Waverly hosted its first USGA championship, the 1999 U.S. Women’s Open won by Juli Inkster, and has been gracious with hosting duties for major college and amateur events ever since.
Old Waverly members welcome Mississippi State players with open arms. The Bryan family are strong supporters of women’s golf, specifically, and Brown-Lemm has cultivated that relationship to the point that Old Waverly became the “anchor” course for the golf programs. Hail State players can tee it up as frequently as they’d like. It has changed the program in the decade since Brown-Lemm arrived.
“I truly believe that without the relationship of Old Waverly and its membership that we would not be near where we are today,” she said.
Mississippi State annually hosts a women’s event in the fall, the Magnolia Invitational, and a men’s event in the spring, the Old Waverly Collegiate, giving other college programs access to a championship-caliber course.
Many of Old Waverly’s holes feel out in nature. A tight layout has forced her players to increase their arsenal of shot. The tee ball is critical. Finding and committing to a line is key.
“It sets you up and baits you to cut off a little bit of a corner here and there,” Brown-Lemm said. “It’s pretty penalizing when you make that mistake, particularly now with the Bermuda rough up so high and up to USGA standards.”
The back nine should set up tremendously for match play, considering that Nos. 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18 all border Lake Waverly. Brown-Lemm highlights a good chunk of the back nine as a section where the matches will be decided.
“No. 11 is significant, 12 is a shorter par 3 but when the hole is left side, it’s a completely different game plan. It’s pretty slick,” she said.
No. 15 is a par 5 with risk-reward decisions to be made. Water runs up the left side from 80 yards in and there’s out of bounds on the right.
“It is all you want,” Brown-Lemm said. “It is a great USGA course, and obviously having held several in the past from the Open to the Mid-Am to this.”
Hail State freshman arrive on campus roughly 10 days after the completion of the event. One of Brown-Lemm’s freshmen will come a little earlier. Tennessee native Ashley Gilliam will represent her new team in the field this week. When the rest of her team arrives, they’ll get to reap the benefits of a championship course in its championship glory.
“It’s really good to be me,” Brown-Lemm gushed. “What a blessing this all has been.”
Needless to say, the opportunity is appreciated.
• • •
The summer season is short so tournaments often pile up on top of each other. That’s the case this week as the the AIG Women’s British Open ends at Woburn Golf Club in England the day before the U.S. Women’s Amateur starts in Mississippi.
All told, six amateurs competed at Woburn and none of them are on the tee sheet at the Women’s Am. Perhaps the biggest disappointment there is Frida Kinhult
’s absence after she got into Woburn courtesy of an early-week qualifier. Kinhult, a Florida State sophomore from Sweden, is the No. 1-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. She also missed the Augusta National Women’s Amateur to play the ANA Inspiration.
World No. 4 Atthaya Thitikul
, who won her second LET event earlier this summer, is among those at Woburn and so is Emily Toy, who won the R&A’s Women’s Amateur Championship in April and Yuka Yasuda
, who was T-3 at the ANWA and made the cut at the Evian.
Two other top players are missing the U.S. Women’s Amateur as they compete in the Pan-American games. Wake Forest junior Emilia Migliaccio
, who went 3-0 in NCAA match play, will represent the U.S. team in Lima, Peru, along with Stanford commit Rose Zhang
• • •
TOURNAMENTS TO WATCH
U.S. Women’s Amateur, Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, Miss., Aug. 5-11
A starting field of 156 players will compete at Old Waverly. Following 18-hole rounds of stroke play on Aug. 5-6, the field will be cut to the top 64 players for match play. Five 18-hole rounds of match play will determine the finalists who will square off in a 36-hole championship match. Here’s who’s playing
(plus your cheat sheet of big names to follow) and here’s how to watch
Canadian Amateur, Glen Arbor GC, Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, Canada, Aug. 5-8
With two-time defending champion Zach Bauchou now a professional, we’re guaranteed a new winner this week in Nova Scotia. With the U.S. Amateur the next week, the Americans in the field are scarce. Still, names to watch include Alex Ross (he of Dogwood Invitational 57 fame), Canon Claycomb, Frankie Capan and Noah Goodwin.
North & South Senior, Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, Aug. 5-7
A week before the U.S. Amateur, the seniors get to have their shot at Pinehurst. Unlike the men’s and women’s North & South tournaments, the senior version is decided by 54 holes of stroke play.
• • •
ROAD TO HOYLAKE
: Are you listening?
The Back of the Range podcast has launched a series of interviews with hopefuls for the U.S. Walker Cup team. The series debuted this week with Stewart Hagestad, the 28-year-old who has already been selected to the team, and William Mouw, the 18-year-old winner of the California Amateur.
You can find them here
• • •
STAT OF THE WEEK:
d When did they get so young?
The average age of the 156 players in the U.S. Women’s Amateur field this week is 19.69. That translates to 71 players at or under 18 years of age. Interestingly, the average age of this year’s field is slightly older than last year’s, which checked in at an average of 19.53 years old. In 2017, the average age of U.S. Women’s Amateur competitors was 18.86 years old.
For comparison? The average age of last year’s U.S. Amateur field (made up of 312 players) was 22.59.
• • •
‘DO OF THE WEEK:
Mr. 60 has flow
Jake Beber-Frankel’s game did the talking at the Junior PGA Championship as he fired a second-round 10-under 60, but it was arguably his hair that drew the most attention throughout the week.
• • •
TWEET OF THE WEEK:
A historic group