Megha Ganne (USGA photo)
History is a story wrapped in facts and will show Megha Ganne
, a 17-year old high school junior from Holmdel, NJ, was the low amateur in the 76th U.S. Women’s Open played at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. However, it’s the story is far more interesting.
On the biggest stage in women’s golf, it was a young amateur of Indian decent that shined bright, displaying the poise of players twice her age while exuberating radiance and flashing a smile warm enough to cut through the Olympic Club’s thick fog.
Ganne, playing in her second U.S. Women’s Open, shot a scintillating 67 in Thursday’s opening round and briefly held the solo lead in the most prestigious event in women’s golf, which was being played on a course that has taken joy from crushing the souls of some the best players in the world over the years. Though a bogey on 18 dropped her back into a tie with England's Mel Reid, Ganne became the first amateur in 15 years to have a share of the lead after any of the rounds of a U.S. Women’s Open since Jane Park led the field after one round at the Newport Country Club in 2016
She followed with rounds of 71 and 72 on Friday and Saturday where she demonstrated a golf maturity far beyond her years. Managing to deftly walk a tightrope strung tightly between survival and flat out disaster, Ganne stayed firmly in the mix with a display of impressive par saves that brought a smile of relief and joy, not unlike the one high schoolers flash after they receive a higher than expected grade on a final exam, which await her in a few weeks at Holmdel High School.
With some of the biggest stars on the LPGA in close proximity, the largest fan following stuck with Ganne, whose biggest win of the year came just a few weeks ago when she captured the Girls’ 15-18 Division in the Scott Robertson Memorial in Roanoke, Va. Feeding off the persistent chants of, “Ganne, Ganne, Ganne,” she kept her composure and played herself into the final grouping with a 1-over 72.
“I think when I’m high on adrenaline, I tend to focus a little more,” said Ganne after Saturday’s round. “I could not hit a golf ball straight or anywhere I wanted so I had to dig deep. I think I did a pretty good job of salvaging a 1-over round.”
At 3-under par, Ganne entered the Sunday’s final round four off the lead and tied for third place, but some wayward drives that nestled in Olympic’s unforgiving rough and too many nervy chip shots caught up to her and she quickly fell out of contention on the front nine. She eventually carded a 6-over score of 77, which left her tied for 14th place at 6-over 287. Her par putt on 18 was met with another raucous cheer normally reserved for a champion – and was returned with an ear-to-ear smile and a hearty wave to an endearing crowd that had adopted her as their own.
“I was kidding her at the beginning of the week that I had as many fans as she did,” said her caddy Michael Finn, a Bay Area native who loops regularly at the Olympic Club. “But after these last four days, the whole club is behind her.
“Her poise, maturity and just how relaxed she was around here was amazing. She wanted to win, obviously, but she was just having fun. A bogey wasn’t going to get her down. She has a pure love of the game. Hopefully for her there will be a lot more opportunities like this to come.”
Ganne edged Oklahoma State All-American Maja Stark
of Sweden by one stroke to earn low amateur honors. Stanford freshman Rachel Heck
, the 2021 NCAA individual champion and world No. 2 amateur, tied for 35th (294) while Baylor All-American Gurleen Kaur
finished 66th (305).
Megha’s parents, Hari and Sudha, along with younger sister Sirina, were there to follow her every step. Staying well-behind the large gallery, Hari and Sudha looked as unfazed and relaxed as their daughter.
“It’s been an amazing experience which as exceeded all of our expectations,” said Hari before Sunday’s final round. “We came here hoping to make the cut and just be around for the weekend but everyday has been a very rewarding experience for all of us.”
Ganne had a hard time in finding the words after the round to put this week in perspective, saying, “It’s been a blast. I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life. I learned that I’m right there and hopefully next time I’ll be further up the leaderboard on the last day.”
This week did nothing to alter her plans on attending Stanford in the fall of 2022. “I’m going and graduating,” said Ganne. “Maybe I’ll win this as an amateur. That’s a good goal.”
Departing the Olympic Club grounds on Sunday evening, Ganne was still smiling and making warm eye contact with her new legion of fans of all ages and color who dared to dream along with her for four memorable days. She patiently signed autographs and took pictures with the young girls who aspire someday to follow in her path.
"I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life," said Ganne. "It's everything I've wanted since I was little, so it's just the best feeling."
Catherine Lacoste remains the lone amateur to have ever won a U.S. Women’s Open, Jack Fleck’s legacy remains intact and the infamous Olympic Club, a graveyard for some of the game’s all-time greats, is still without a superstar champion.
As for Megha Ganne, she will take a lifetime of memories, a hand-made bracelet which was given to her by a young girl as she came off the 18th green on Sunday and her calculator back to Holmdel High School where a more grueling challenge awaits – a calculus final.
This week’s most likeable player in golf carved a special place in U.S. Women’s Open history that won’t soon be forgotten.