Candace Schepperle Set To Tee Off At 2009 U.S. Women's Open
July 8, 2009
AUBURN - When Auburn's Candace Schepperle teed up her first shot on May 26, she was one of a record 1,278 entrants for the 2009 United States Women's Open Golf Championship. On Thursday morning, the rising senior will make her first-ever appearance in the tournament as she earned one of 156 spots in the tournament field.
She will be one of two Auburn golfers taking the course in Thursday's first round, joining former Tiger Nicole Hage (2004-07) at Saucon Valley Country Club's Old Course in Bethlehem, Pa.
Conducted by the United States Golf Association, the U.S. Women's Open is a 72-hole stroke play event with a cut after 36 holes. The par-71 Old Course will play at 6,740 yards for the four-day event.
Schepperle, a Birmingham, Ala., native, took an improbable route to her first Open, starting with the local qualifying tournament on May 26 at Industry Hills Golf Club in the City of Industry, Calif.
Carding a 4-over-par 76 in the 18-hole qualifier, Schepperle was one of four alternates for sectional qualifying out of her field.
Failing to advance, she stayed on the road and was actually spending time with her father, David, who was in Havre de Grace, Md., caddying for former Georgia golfer Taylor Leon at the McDonald's LPGA Championship presented by Coca-Cola, June 11-14.
With the tournament complete, the pair decided to stay in the area and head over to Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., where U.S. Open sectional qualifying was scheduled for Mon., June 15. Showing up at the golf course at 5:30 a.m., with no guarantee that she would get to play, Schepperle waited until her opportunity came - a withdrawal opening up a spot for her to play.
The rest is history as Schepperle came in with a 3-under-par 68 after the first 18 holes, but struggled in the final 18 as she finished with a 4-over 76 for a 1-over-par 144 on the day. When all the scores were in, she was in a tie with nine other golfers for the final eight spots in the U.S. Open field.
"I just really felt good that I was going to get in," said Schepperle. "It was not really excitement but more relief once I got in. I just had to get the job done and I did. I shot 3-under on the first 18, which could have easily been 7 under. I kind of struggled part of second round and really had to re-focus to get back into it and shot 4-over that round."
It took two playoff holes to trim the total to eight, but after 38 holes of golf that day, Schepperle had played her way into her first U.S. Women's Open.
"It was so exciting, I had come so close to making this tournament before," said Schepperle. "I have gone to the same site every year and missed by one or two shots and played really good golf, but it was so crazy to get in this way. I went through two playoffs and all this crazy stuff to get here and it worked out, so I'm taking it all in now."
Schepperle will be one of 30 amateurs and the only Alabama resident in the tournament field when it kicks off at 6 a.m. CT, Thursday. She will be playing with Diana D'Alessio of Flanders, N.J. and Korea's Jeong Jang at 6:11 a.m. on the No. 10 tee.
Hage, a native of Coral Springs, Fla., will tee off at 1:31 p.m. off the No. 1 tee with Tzu-Chi Lin of Chinese Taipei and amateur Marina Alex of Wayne, N.J.
With all the excitement around her first U.S. Women's Open appearance, Schepperle said she has tried to put that aside and focus on her game.
"I have not got into all the excitement very much yet," said Schepperle. "I have really been working hard on playing the course, putting my homework into it."
Part of that homework came in her practice rounds earlier in the week where she got to take a look at the competition course. Playing at 6,740 yards, it is just 49 yards short of the longest ever in tournament history - 6,789 yards played at Interlachen Country Club in 2008.
"It is definitely playing long, but the tougher the course, the better for me," said Schepperle. "There is not a lot of roll, you have to hit the fairways because they are pretty narrow and the greens are tricky.
"You can't short-sight yourself very often on the greens and expect to get up and down. There are a lot of mounds and undulations in the greens and they are tricky that way. Overall, it is a great course and a great test. For me, even par every day is a great score out here."
Her "even-par" approach is something she expects to draw some strength from during the tournament, and hopefully find some success.
"I don't feel the pressure to go out there and shoot in the 60s because it is a tough course; par is a good score on each hole, so I can go out and be patient.," said Schepperle. "I'm playing good, it's summer time and I am out here having some fun. I'm definitely enjoying the experience"
ESPN will carry first-round coverage of the tournament from 1 - 5 p.m. CT. For more information on the 2009 U.S. Women's Open, go to www.USWomensOpen.com.
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