Breathe easy all you amateur golfers who’ve spent the past year trying to configure a strategy on how to unseat reigning Florida State Women’s Amateur champion Page Halpin. Like Elvis, Page has left the building. That’s right. She won’t be defending her title this week. In fact, and you can pretty much count on this, she won’t be playing, or thinking about golf while you’re battling to become her successor.
There’s a good reason for both her attitude and relinquishing her title without a fight.
“I don’t enjoy it that much, that’s why I don’t play more than once or twice a month,” she said. “I play a lot of tennis now because a lot of the young moms play and we have a good time.”
There is a difference between not enjoying playing golf and yet having the drive to excel at it. Halpin learned this lesson at an early age. It was back when she was Page Dunlap.
“I never played golf because I liked it,” she said, “but I had a passion to strive to be good at it, and that was the only reason I played. There was no element of fun in golf for me. I didn‘t play golf with friends because they didn’t play.”
Improve she did – to the point where she won one individual NCAA title and two team championships for the University of Florida, and played on the LPGA Tour from 1990 through 1997. She was living the life, getting better and not really loving it.
“A year or so before I stopped playing,” she recalled, “I found a wonderful teacher in Pennsylvania named Ted Sheftic and I became a much better ball-striker. I actually was playing my best golf when I left the Tour. I was disenchanted and it was time to go.”
From the LPGA Tour, a life of sometimes celebrity and sometimes drudgery, Halpin quietly matriculated into a life of normalcy where Tuesday morning might mean taking your son to an orthodontist instead of catching a cross-country flight, and your favorite TV program is at the same numbers on the remote every week. She did, however, remember to apply to the USGA for her amateur reinstatement, because, you never know when … well, you just never know.
Lo and behold, the Florida State Golf Association decided to hold the 2011 Women’s Amateur Championship at The Oaks Club, Halpin’s home course in Osprey, near Sarasota. Talk about motivation. She could have moved maybe a feather with her motivation.
“Well, it was at my home course where we live,” she said, “and I did practice for maybe a week to a week and a half before it. It was an interesting tournament. I was amazed that the skills hadn’t eroded. I guess that came from all the work I did in the past to hone those skills.”
With her championship comes the rare opportunity to defend. All she’d have to do is take time off from working with her husband in their business fixing jet engine components and let her 8-year-old son fend for himself getting to school and such. Fat chance.
“Defending this year has never been on my radar,” Halpin said. “I only played last year because it was in my hometown.”
As the ladies spend today in Weston jockeying for position in the match play draw of 32, occasionally one of the combatants will have to rip a 4-iron shot to the green to set up a birdie opportunity.
Meanwhile, “I’ll be ripping forehands,” said Halpin with a soft chuckle.
She knows the satisfaction of doing both and which one definitely makes her happier.
In Florida Junior Tour action at Old Corkscrew GC in Estero, Ryan Celano, from Naples, birdied the first sudden-death playoff hole to defeat Bradenton’s Danny Walker for the 16-18 Boys title. Both players finished the 36 holes of regulation at 147. Orlando’s Ryan Stovach and Bradenton’s Ramsey Touchberry finished tied for third at 148.
In the Girls 16-18 Division, Orlando’s Yueer Feng captured her 25th FJT title shooting a 151 total, eight better than Stephanie Carlozzi, of Naples. Sabrina Rumsbaugh, from Orange Park, finished third at 170.
In the Keiser University College of Golf FJT tournament held at Harmony Golf Preserve south of Orlando, Pureun Kim, from Gainesville, birdied three of the last five holes, including the 18th, to finish at 3-under-par 141 to capture the Boys 16-18 Division, one better than Stovach and Cole Thompson, of Vero Beach.
Tampa’s Ann Newell won her second FJT title in the Girls 16-18 Division with a 141 total, one stroke better than Orlando’s Ashley Holder and Plant City’s Madison Opfer, who tied for second a stroke back.
Gabriel Lench, of Lake Mary, and Parrish’s Cole Johnson both shot even-par 72s in the FJT event held at Lake Wales CC in Lake Wales. Lench’s par on the first extra hole secured the 16-18 Boys title. Tyler Bakich, from Valrico, and Christopher Kindell, from Barrow-in-Furness, England, tied for third at 146.
Ten-year old Latanna Stone won her second FJT title in the Girls 13-15 Division with a 148 total, one stroke ahead of Miami’s Jamie Freedman. Bradenton’s Phoebe Zhao finished third at 152.