No longer unknown off the tee Golf: Although she is still getting used to the recognition, Jenny Chuasiriporn clearly will be in the limelight in this week's U.S. Women's Amateur.

August 11, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Jenny Chuasiriporn went unrecognized on a recent visit to see one of her Duke roommates in New York City, playing the role of tourist on a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "I didn't think anyone would know me," she said. "It was nice."

Chuasiriporn became a bit unnerved during an appearance at Camden Yards, playing the role of celebrity on a trip to the mound before a recent Orioles game. "I needed a wedge," she said of a first pitch that was wide and short of home.

She seemed a little uncomfortable with the attention and affection being showered on her one night last week on a trip back to her home club, Hunt Valley, playing the role of honoree as well as favorite daughter. "I guess I'm going to have to get used to this," she said.

This week, Chuasiriporn moves into more familiar territory when she plays the role of contender in this year's U.S. Women's Amateur at Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich., where she'd like to re-create her performance from last month's U.S. Women's Open.

With one notable difference: She'd like to take home the trophy.

But winning the Amateur, which begins today, might be even more difficult than nearly winning the Open was at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., where she lost in a 20-hole playoff to Se Ri Pak of South Korea. Then she was the underdog, now she'll be one of the favorites.

"I think I'm playing pretty well, but it's tough to say that you're going out there to win," Chuasiriporn said after the crowd dispersed at Hunt Valley. "I'm not really expecting a lot. So many things have to happen. You've got to get a good draw and then you have to play at the top of your game."

But Chuasiriporn would certainly like to erase the memory of last year's first-round defeat to Shauna Estes, which came a few weeks after she had finished as the low amateur in the Women's Open. Just like this year's Open, it came down to a couple of putts.

"I was a little disappointed with that," she said. "On the 10th hole, I missed a one-foot putt. It was a downhill slider and it went 12 or 13 feet by and I missed the putt coming back. Then I lost the 11th hole. I never really recovered after that."

Reliving her Open

It was a different feeling than the one she took away with her from that sticky Monday afternoon in America's heartland last month. In losing to Pak in the first Women's Open 18-hole playoff to go to sudden death, Chuasiriporn felt elated by how far she went.

But she also has done her share of second-guessing since.

"I guess I sometimes sit back and think what would have happened had I made this putt or that putt," said Chuasiriporn, who had a chance to win on the 18th hole but failed to get up and down for par from just off the green. "There's always going to be the what-ifs."

And Chuasiriporn knows something else. She was a bit relieved.

"It would have been a world of difference had I won," said Chuasiriporn, who was a member of the winning U.S. team at the recent Curtis Cup matches.

"I'm a big believer in things happening for a reason, and maybe had I won, I would have had everyone telling me to turn pro. It's nice to have done so well and have everyone notice. At the same time, I wasn't ready for the responsibility of being the U.S. Open champion."

She welcomes the responsibility of being a role model, having played it for much of her life. The middle of Paul and Edy Chuasiriporn's three children, she and brother Joey, who is 11 months older, have set terrific examples for their younger brother Jimmy, 10.

Jenny Chuasiriporn also realizes the impact that she had in the way she handled both the near-victory and sudden-death defeat at the Open, displaying a wide range of spur-of-the-moment reactions. It was in stark contrast to the implacable Pak.

"I always dreamed of having an effect on my sport, but I didn't think it would happen so soon," she said.

The LPGA is awaiting Chuasiriporn's next appearance on its tour with a great deal of anticipation, but not quite open arms. She turned down sponsor's exemptions at last week's Star Bank LPGA Classic as well as the State Farm Rail Classic later this month because of scheduling conflicts.

Chuasiriporn is just familiarizing herself with the strict rules that govern the LPGA when it comes to players who have yet to go through qualifying school. After she turns pro next summer, she will get only four sponsor's exemptions and would have to win a tournament to be exempt for at least a year.

"My family is talking about going back to Thailand for three weeks next summer anyway, after graduation and the Open," said Chuasiriporn, who is expected to receive her degree in psychology from Duke next spring. "But playing in the Open definitely helped prepare me for what to expect once I turn pro."

Made for LPGA Tour

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