Home feel helps push Katie Lee into the round of 64 at Public Links

Katie Lee stood on the driving range with a 3-wood in her hands hitting the same shot over and over again.

A 200-yard rainbow, with just a little fade at the end.

But still, she wasn’t happy.

“It’s just off,” she said.

Lee was half an hour away from teeing off in the second round of the 38th and last U.S. Women’s Public Links Championship. The 18-year old lives in Silverdale, just 50 miles north of The Home Course in DuPont, where the championships are being held. She and her sister, Erynne, both go to UCLA, where Katie will serve as the golf team manager next fall.

But Silverdale is home, and being so close to home adds even more pressure than usual to a national championship.

“I try not to let the pressure get to me,” she said. “But it’s there. A lot of people talk to me, wishing me luck and telling me I should make the cut, which I might not. It’s a lot of pressure.”

Despite efforts, the pressure got to Lee in her first round, at least at the beginning. Her caddie, Spencer Jacobsen, said it was clear Lee’s game wasn’t at it’s best. Her fade was turning into a hook, and she was leaving putts short.

“She wasn’t feeling too good,” he said. “Everything was starting to go to the right on the practice range, and when we went out to the course, it stuck around.”

She shot four-over par 76 on Monday, just one stroke below the projected cut-line of five-over. On the bubble after the first round, she and Jacobsen looked at her swing and tried to correct a few problems.

But deep down, they knew it was mostly a case of nerves.

“We have similar problems in our swing,” he said. “And with the pressure, those problems kind of came out. But we talked after the round and started to get things straightened out.”

Lee did have one advantage she hoped would help her play better on Tuesday: an intimate knowledge of the course. She estimates she’s played The Home Course over 20 times in her life, and knows it well from various USGA qualifiers and high school tournaments.

“It was set up pretty tough for this tournament,” she said. “But I’ve been playing this course for so long, it suits my eyes. Up until this week, it didn’t really sink in that this was the U.S. Amateur Pub Links, it just felt like a normal tournament because I’m so familiar with it.”

Lee is one of seven Washington golfers competing in the championships. Two other local golfers are playing in the championships: Kendall Gray, of Federal Way, and Alexis Keating, of Elma.

Gray shot 85 on Monday and 82 on Tuesday for a two-round score of 167, which landed her out of contention to move into match play, while Keating shot one-under par 71 on Tuesday to finish tied for 30th, well below the cut line.

Being near home wasn’t enough to save Gray. But it came in handy for Lee when she set out Tuesday. Lee birdied two of the first three holes, before running into trouble on hole No. 13. An errant second shot led to a double-bogey six on the par four.

That shot put her at one over par.

“I hit it right, and just had to rescue myself,” she said. “I played a lot of rescue golf today.”

Birdies on 16 and 18, however, sealed the deal. A final score of 71 gave Lee a two-day total of 147. The cut line was 149.

“I’m just so relieved,” she said. “I can’t even think right now. I was forgetting to breathe after I doubled (the 13th), and Spencer told me to just calm down and hit it straight, and that’s what I did.”