John McGrath

John McGrath: While Jacqui Concolino’s head was at Sahalee, her heart was grieving in Orlando

Jacqui Concolino hits from a bunker on the 17th hole of the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic golf tournament on June 5.
Jacqui Concolino hits from a bunker on the 17th hole of the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic golf tournament on June 5. The Associated Press

Jacqui Concolino wasn’t in much of a mood for golf Sunday morning at Sahalee Country Club. Which is strange, because the rain clouds over the Sammamish Plateau had moved on during the night, assuring ideal conditions at the lush course Colin Montgomerie once called “a beautiful place to play and a beautiful test of golf.”

But Concolino, a 28-year old Orlando resident, had more urgent concerns than competing in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Upon waking up, caddie Jeff Howantz informed her there had been a massacre back home, at the Pulse nightclub.

She typed a Twitter message: “Orlando is suffering. Thoughts and prayers are out to the victims. #PrayersToOrlando.”

Six hours later, after finishing her round, Concolino talked of the nightclub that forever will be linked to the worst mass shooting in the United States and the nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11.

“I’ve been to that place a few times and it’s an awesome, really fun place to hang out,” she said. “I know that some of my friends potentially could have been there.”

Being in the dark was the hard part. She was more than 3,000 miles from home, amid tree-lined fairways where the only news gathering is done by glancing at a leaderboard.

“It was tough,” Concolino said. “The first two holes I was still thinking about it, texting friends and trying to check Facebook to make sure everybody I know was OK. I wasn’t quite there during the warmup.

“But after the first two holes, I kind of got into a groove.”

Concolino finished the round with a 1-under par 70, her only red-number round of the tournament and validation of her professionalism. It’s a good life, traveling around the country and enjoying not only access to the most exclusive golf courses but being paid to play them — Concolino earned $104,482 in 2015 — but once in a while there are days when competing is more a chore than a rewarding occupation.

Sunday, for instance.

“I haven’t heard bad news about anyone I know,” Concolino said. “So that’s good for me, but terrible for the city of Orlando, especially after the shooting of that young girl the day before.”

Concolino was referring to Christina Grimmie, the 22-year old singer who came to fame as a contestant on “The Voice.” Grimmie was signing autographs about a half-hour after a performance in downtown Orlando when she was fatally shot by a man carrying two handguns and a hunting knife.

Born in New York and educated at Vanderbilt, Concolino grieves for the city she now calls home.

“It’s a great town,” she said. “Very eclectic. People all over the world live there. Orlando people kind of get it, you know? They like it and love it and embrace it. It’s a shame something like this had to happen in my backyard.”

The terrible news Concolino awakened to before the fourth round made for a solemn conclusion to a weekend spent at a showcase of Pacific Northwest golf.

“A great experience at Sahalee,” she said. “Gracious hosts and amazing fans. I hope we can come back in the future — if not to Sahalee, at least to this area.”

A visitor from Orlando did nothing heroic here Sunday. Jacqui Concolino took 70 swings to negotiate a layout where the women’s par is 71 — it allowed her to finish in a tie for 39th place — then signed autographs.

But she managed to keep her head in the game, on a morning her heart was someplace else. It’s what pro athletes do.

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