One wouldn't be surprised when Emma Talley tees off this morning at 7:02 for the U.S. Women's Open Championship at the Pinehurst Resort & Country Club at Pinehurst, N.C., that she could be a little nervous about playing with the partners of her first two rounds.
And there would be reason to be anxious because Talley â “ the 2013 U.S. Amateur champion, who golfs for the University of Alabama after a standout career at Caldwell County â “ will be grouped with Inbee Park â “ the 2013 U.S. Women's Open winner, a two-time U.S. Women's Open champion (2008) and the second-ranked player in the world by the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings â “ and Stacy Lewis, the world's top ranked player.
Add the fact that Park won three of the five majors the LPGA Tour played last year â “ the U.S. Women's Open Championship, the Wegmans LPGA Championship and the Kraft Nabisco Championship â “ and Lewis claimed one of the five, the Women's British Open.
But the soon to be Crimson Tide junior, who is playing as an amateur this week, is thrilled about the opportunity.
"A few weeks ago someone told me that they were going to put the amateur champion with the past year's Open champion and the No. 1 ranked player in the world and I never said anything to anybody," said Talley, who became the first woman golfer from Alabama to win the U.S. Women's Amateur by defeating Yueer Cindy Feng 2 and 1 in the 36-hole final. "But when it came out I was really excited, because thank goodness I know both of them. I know I could be nervous around them, but having the crowd around will make it fun."
Talley recognizes the honor of being grouped with Park and Lewis.
"I do and I'm really excited about that, because they are really good players," Talley said. "And not only will I get to learn beside them, but I'll learn what I'll need to do better by playing with the best two players in the world."
Pinehurst's No. 2 course will be set up at 6,649 yards and will play to a par of 35-35-70.
Talley, who didn't play in last year's Open, finished tied for 46th in the 2012 Open with a 13 over (73-75-81-72) 301 and missed the cut in 2011 after shooting 75-77 the first two rounds. She said she is prepared for the challenges the course will bring over a hopeful four days.
"It's going to be a real tough week for everybody," Talley said. "Everyone will have to remember the people who show the most patience will play the best. So this week I'm just going to try to have fun and do what I can do."
Ironically, Talley won't even be the youngest player this weekend. That honor will go to 11-year old Lucy Li, who made history May 19 when she shot 74-68 on the Old Course at Half Moon Bay (San Francisco) to win a sectional qualifier by seven shots in California.
"It's pretty cool that she's here," Talley said. "I haven't met her yet, but I know she's out there and she'll have a big crowd following her. I can't imagine, though, being an 11-year-old out here. I hope she plays well."
At 20, Talley has already won the 2013 U.S. Amateur, been named the 2012-13 SEC Freshman of the Year, and been selected as a second-team All-American by the Women's Golf Coaches Association for a second straight year, a first-team American Junior Golf Association All-American in 2011 and a member of the 2010 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team. She will also play in the Women's British Open (July 10-13 at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, Lancashire, UK), the Wegmans LPGA Championship (Aug. 14-17 at the Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y.) and the U.S. Amateur (Aug 4-10 at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y.)
"You have to work and work to get to this level, and now that I'm here I've got to take a step back and look at it and realize I'm so blessed to be here," Talley said. "Having a good time is the most important thing."
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661.
Rolexrankings.com Top 10
1 Stacy Lewis
2 Inbee Park
3 Lydia Ko
4 Suzann Pettersen
5 Karrie Webb
6 Lexi Thompson
7 Shanshan Feng
8 So Yeon Ryu
9 Anna Nordqvist
10 Cristie Kerr