NESHANIC STATION, N.J.--With all due respect toKyung Kim and Ashlan Ramsey, I had never seen either of them hit a golf ball until I watched them compete against each other in the final of the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship Saturday. Nor had I ever spoken with either until after watching them combine for 18 birdies at Neshanic Valley GC, Kim ultimately defeating Ramsey, 4 and 2. Truth be told, I really wasn't all that familiar with either players' career until 48 hours ago.
I say this with two thoughts in mind:
1) Shame on me for not being more up to speed on these two fine players.
2) There doesn't seem to be a lack of depth in the women's amateur game.
The later notion was something that seemed to crystalize as the USGA's Teresa Belmont and the WAPL committee tried to keep from melting last week on the picturesque yet hardly shady New Jersey course. During the early rounds of match play, several marquee players were knocked out: Tiffany Lua, Sally Watson, Emily Tubert, Lisa McCloskey, Kelsey Vines and Brittany Altomare to name a few. Heading into the quarterfinals, the remaining players were names that causal golf fans (and even some avid golf writers) weren't quite familiar with.
But there's a conclusion that could be drawn from the result. The names might seem new, but that doesn't mean their games aren't impressive.
Indeed, there appear to be a lot of quality players out there in the girls/women's ranks that are just looking for an opportunity to show they have the goods. Ramsay, 16, from Milledgeville, Ga., just finished her junior year in high school and has already made a verbal commitment to play for Clemson's new squad when it plays for the first time in the fall of 2013. She was a first-team AJGA All-American in 2011 and current ranks seventh on the Polo Golf girls junior ranking. Maybe she hasn't won a big national event yet, but she certainly has talent, as was evident in the way she handled herself last week. She never trailed in her first four matches and only for two holes in her semifinal win over Kim Kaufman.
Similarly, Kim, 18, hasn't won any of the AJGA's major invitational titles but she is a two-time first-team AJGA All-American who had already qualified for this year's U.S. Women's Open prior to her victory last weekend. Bound for USC in the fall, Kim didn't think she was a very good match-play performer, yet dispelled her own doubts as she worked her way through the bracket. During Saturday's final, she showcased an impressive short game, as evident by a stretch of four holes in the morning 18 (Nos. 9-12) where she made birdie putts of 25, 45, 30 and five feet (the last one feeling like a tap in after the previous three). Kim went from 1 down to 2 up during that stretch, taking a lead that she wouldn't relinquish.
By day's end, Kim and Ramsey had me appreciating that while the WAPL field might not be littered with "big-name" amateurs, it has some very solid players, golfers capable of beating the big names when given a shot. It's why I wrote in today's Golf World Monday that I think the USGA needs to consider giving the winner of the WAPL an exemption not just into the other top women's tournament it runs, but into its signature championship: the U.S. Women's Open.
There was a time when the quality of the field at the WAPL did not warrant such a reward, but it has passed. Look at the recent WAPL winners—Michelle Wie, Yani Tseng, Tiffany Joh, Jennifer Song and Tubert—and each has backed-up their victory in other amateur and pro tournaments. All would have been deserving of competing in the Women's Open (most found a way to qualify anyways) and none would be have been in over their heads.
Neither would Kim (who proved it by qualifying on her own merits) or Ramsey. A little extra love from the USGA would go a long way to lifting the prestige of the WAPL—an event that proved to me this weekend it deserves a bigger spotlight.