ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s Bailey Tardy is one of 21 amateurs who have qualified for this weekend’s U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, Pa. But the rising junior has more Open experience than many of the 135 professionals competing in the game’s premier event.
Tardy, who recently completed her sophomore season at Georgia, will make her third Open appearance. She tees off at 12:30 on Thursday along with Cheyenne Woods and Thidapa Suwannapura in the first group of the afternoon wave.
“I’m kind of approaching this tournament as if I was playing for a living because that’s what I want to be doing some day,” Tardy said following Wednesday’s final practice round. “Other than that, I’ll just try to control my nerves. It’s definitely less intimidating (this time), but it’s still intimidating. You have things like microphones on the tee boxes and grandstands and people asking for your autograph. It’s still a very neat experience.”
Tardy played practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Her pairing on the first loop included Paula Creamer, who is No. 10 on the LPGA’s all-time money list with more than $11 million in career earnings.
“On the first hole of the first practice round, I hit my tee shot on No. 1 pretty poorly,” Tardy said. “Paula went up and her tee shot wasn’t the greatest either. That helped me realize that even the great golfers make mistakes too. You just have to stay confident and play through it. I don’t know how nervous I’ll be tomorrow, but it’s reassuring that I’m long and I know I’m good enough to be here.”
The practice rounds also allowed Tardy the chance to play with some familiar faces.
“The good players are usually good friends with the other good players so they tend to play practice rounds together,” Tardy said. “On Monday, I played with Paula and Georgia Hall. Georgia played on the GB&I Curtis Cup team in 2012, and I actually met her when they came to the Atlanta Athletic Club to practice so it was great to visit with her. Yesterday, I played with Cheyenne Woods, who I’m paired with the first two days. Today, I played with Angel Yin. I knew her pretty well from junior golf, but she chose to turn pro and not play in college so I haven’t seen her that much.”
Tardy reached the 2017 Open the same way she earned a spot in the field in 2016 and 2014, by winning a qualifier at Butler Country Club outside Pittsburgh. For the first time, this year’s Open included a dinner for all the amateur on Monday evening.
“Juli Inkster spoke to us, and she was really great,” Tardy said. “She just told us ‘You guys belong here. You’ve earned your way here.’ That was eye-opening to hear from someone who has won multiple USGA titles. It was kind of reassuring. She also had a great message about playing on Tour. She played on Tour and had two kids and is still doing it now.”
After Mariel Galdino, who is playing in her fourth U.S. Open, Tardy is the next-most Open experienced amateur in the field. The Peachtree Corners, Ga., native is excited about her tee time and her caddy as well.
“I love the 12:30 tee time, even though it means Friday morning I have 6:45,” Tardy said. “I think that’s much better than having to go on the back end of a wave. You have a to play an afternoon tee time at some point so I think 12:30 is perfect. A local caddy named John will be my caddy this weekend. I came up and played a month ago just to see the course. He was with me than, and we got along well so he’s on the bag this weekend.”
Several other current and future Bulldogs also are in action this week.
Harang Lee, who finished her collegiate career this spring, and Paula Neira Garcia, an incoming freshman, are representing Spain at the European Ladies and Girls’ Team Championships, respectively.
Lee fired a 3-under 69 on Wednesday to help Spain finish third in stroke play qualifying in the Ladies event in Portugal. On Thursday morning, Spain will face England in the quarterfinal round of match play.
Neira Garcia tied for 33rd in stroke play in the Girls’ Championship in Finland. Spain will face Italy Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Rising senior Isabella Skinner and rising junior Jillian Hollis competed in the 115th North & South Amateur in Pinehurst, N.C. Hollis and Skinner tied for 22nd and 27th, respectively, in two rounds of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday to advance to the 32-player match play tree.
On Wednesday morning, Hollis defeated former Georgia golfer Martha (Stacy) Leach in the round of 32, while Skinner defeated Yujeong Sun. Interestingly, both Hollis and Stacy were medalists at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic. Stacy won the 1980 event, which was then named the Women’s Southern Intercollegiates. Hollis was the medalist in the 45th annual tournament this spring.
Skinner and Hollis dropped their round of 16 matches on Wednesday afternoon. Skinner lost to Sandy Choi, and Hollis fell to Aneka Seumanutafa.
On Monday, rising sophomore Gabiela Coello tied for ninth at the Florida Women’s Amateur at Sara Bay Country Club in Sarasota, Fla.