Traversing the course at Lancaster Country Club on the final weekend of the U. S. Women’s Open were 64 golfers from around the world, including one woman from Lititz.
Lititz amateur Alli Weaver made her mark on history by playing the final two rounds of the tournament as a non-competing marker to even out the field of play for international competitors in the most well-known tournament in the country.
“It was quite an amazing text to get,” said Weaver of the early-morning message that she’d be playing on Saturday thanks to an odd number of players remaining after the cut was made at +4. “I never thought in my right mind that I’d be able to play in the US Open after I didn’t qualify for it.”
Weaver played the regional qualifier at Galloway National Golf Club in New Jersey this spring, and although she didn’t make the cut, it appears she was destined to play at the U.S. Open at Lancaster Country Club, where she interns in the pro shop.
“Between me working there, and it being convenient, it worked out in my favor,” she said.
What made the opportunity even more special was that she was able to play on her home course, in front of hometown fans.
“I had so many people tell me they were going to walk along and they were cheering for me, it made the experience that much more heartfelt.,” said Weaver, who was paired with Haruka Morita-Wanyaolu from China on Saturday. Weaver felt fan support the following day as she accompanied American Liz Nagle.
“More members came out to watch and a lot more people found out that I was able to play,” said Weaver. “There were a lot of people out there that I knew.”
Although she is used to playing nine to eighteen holes a day at Lancaster Country Club, the conditions facing golfers on the final weekend of the championship were far different than she had ever experienced.
“I have never seen the rough that long in my days of playing there,” she said of the 4-4 ½ rough that plagued Amy Yang in the final round. “It was really something to avoid. “It was very thick. It wasn’t the length, as much as how thick it was.”
The USGA had decided not to cut any rough on the property on the eve of the final round, leaving a challenge that would penalize players who strayed from the fairway.
“I know on the second day [Sunday], I hit in the rough on the left side of number 11, and I think I hit a nine iron out of it because my ball buried so far you could barely see the ball. I have never actually witnessed my ball buried that deep before in rough.” 20-year old Korean In Gee Chun came from behind to win the event on Sunday.
Despite the challenges presented by the course where local caddie Sean Hennessey informed her she shot an 82 on Saturday, Weaver was pleased with her performance.
“I hit the ball well,” she said. “Surprisingly I did the best on the par 3’s, which typically are more the high-scoring holes. I was pretty proud of myself that I could play them well, because they have a lot of pressure. People tend to sit at par 3’s and see what kind of mistakes people will make.”
Weaver believes she played better on the back nine, which she feels is a bit easier. It also provided the backdrop for a personal highlight.
“My parents left for the beach on Saturday, about half an hour before I found out that I was going to play, so they had to miss the Saturday round because they were already at the beach,” said Weaver. “I called them on Saturday night and told them I would be able to play [on Sunday]. They decided at 6 o’clock on Sunday morning they were going to drive home and watch my back nine. That was a kind of a highlight because my parents were there to watch the last nine holes that I got to play.”
Weaver, a 2009 Warwick graduate, credits her experience on the high school golf team as instrumental.
“It got me ready to be competitive,” said Weaver of her time at Warwick, where she was the only girl on the team. A two-time Lebanon-Lancaster League Champion, Weaver went on to graduate from Murray State University in Kentucky in 2013.
Weaver, who is “slowly working towards turning pro,” chalks up the experience of playing in front of the large crowds at the Open as beneficial for her future career.
“When you hit a great shot there, whether it was a routine par or you really made a good shot or made a great putt, the crowds were so loud, it just made you feel like you did something so good. You did something that was so normal to us, and so routine to us, it was so much bigger, and it meant so much more. That was a really cool feeling.”
Although Weaver acknowledged to the press that nerves were an issue on Saturday during a USGA flash interview, she doesn’t expect it to be an issue in the future.
“I can pretty much play any tournament I want,” said Weaver, who hopes to play in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open at CordeValle in San Jose, California.
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