Women qualify for U.S. Open at Soboba Springs Golf Course

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The 2024 U.S. Women’s Open Qualifying championships were played out on April 23 at Soboba Spring Golf Course during two rounds of 18 holes each. Threesomes teed off at holes 1 and 10 at 7 a.m. simultaneously for Round 1 and then at 12:30 p.m. for Round 2. Both are Par 4 holes.

A total of 76 competitors from many different states and countries vied for the top two scores which qualifies them for inclusion in the 79th U.S. Women’s Open Presented by Ally at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania, May 30-June 2. SSGC was one of 26 sites that hosted one-day, 36-hole grueling tests with only two moving on to compete alongside the game’s leading players. The next two top scorers were named as alternates.

Kylee Choi of Murrieta watches to see where her ball lands after teeing off at Hole 1 for Round 2 at Soboba Springs Golf Course, April 23. | Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Seven golfers dropped out before finishing both rounds and one took ill during Round 1 and had to quit early. There were playoffs for the second qualifying position along with a playoff for the second alternate. A hole-by-hole playoff for each was held immediately following the conclusion of regular play.

At the end of a long day of play, Hsin Yu Lu of Chinese Taipei had the top score of 140, which is four under par. The second qualifier is Mariel Galdiano of Hawaii with a total score of 142. The two alternates are Emily Song of Irvine, also scoring 142 and Samantha Wagner of Florida with a 145. For full field results, www.golfgenius.com/pages/4783176.

Samantha Wagner of Florida, who turned professional in 2017, made the cut as the second alternate for the 2024 U.S. Women’s Open.

Frank Luchowski, Director of Golf Operations, has worked at SSGC for eight years and said the event went smoothly. “We had great weather, and the golf course was playing difficult,” he said. “We had many great comments on the golf course and the set up that the SCGA put out there.”

Southern California Golf Association’s Championships and Golf Operations Assistant Director Jimmy Becker and Coordinator Daniel Blanton arrived at 5:20 a.m. to set things up for the competition. They checked in the golfers and recorded their scores as they turned in their scorecards after completing each round. There was also live scoring being sent to them via an app and appearing on a screen at their table throughout the day. They were joined by six rules officials who volunteered their time out on the green.

Southern California Golf Association’s Championships and Golf Operations Coordinator Daniel Blanton, left, and Assistant Director Jimmy Becker track and post scores throughout the day at Soboba Springs Golf Course, April 23.

Becker and Blanton had visited the course the previous day to make sure everything was prepped. SCGA, based in Studio City, hosts 38 qualifiers in Southern California and holds 250-plus events annually.

There were some locals among the field of players who brought their A-game to the fairway. Corina Kelepouris of La Quinta turned professional in 1998 but took about 10 years off before returning to the sport. She was at Tuesday’s event to get some competitive rounds in before heading to June’s 2024 U.S. Senior Women’s Open qualifier in San Diego. “I wanted to get that feeling of being under the gun again,” she said. “As a 50-year-old, and potentially the eldest in the field, I felt like I fared fairly well in a field full of young gals. I didn’t play my best, but there were certainly positives to be drawn; 36 holes in one day is a daunting task and I’m pleased with how I held up mentally and physically.”

Corina Kelepouris of La Quinta tees off at Hole 10 to begin Round 2 while SCGA rules official Becky Eustice watches.

She said the course offered a nice variety of holes and each provided a unique challenge. “Number 11 is one tough hole. Narrow off the tee and the rough is long so if you don’t hit the fairway, you have a longish carry to a green that is crazy fast from back to front,” Kelepouris said.  

Her caddy was Terry Walsh, a friend from the club that she is a member at. “He and I play a ton of golf together, so it was comfortable having him on the bag,” she said. “I will try to play in a few more events to give me some more competitive reps for when I try to qualify for the championship in June. That’s truly my target. Until then, I will just keep practicing and enjoying playing with Terry and the crew at my home club.”

Jordyn Janert of Temecula said she enjoys coming back to this course. “It is where I first beat my dad in a round, so I have fond memories of the course,” she said. “My favorite quality of Soboba Springs is how it tests every aspect of your game. Some holes require precise tee shots while others might require great speed control on the green.”

Local competitor, Jordyn Janert of Temecula, takes a swing at the start of Round 2.

She said she really likes the 9th hole. “It is a visually difficult hole, requiring confidence in your targets, which paid off for me both rounds. The ninth hole is beautiful with the water running along the left side and served as a scenic finishing hole for my day,” Janert said. “The 16th hole served as the most challenging for me. It is one of the longest par threes I have ever played. In addition to its length, the bunkers both in front and behind the green force players to have perfect club selection. The pin placement even made a shot from the bail out areas difficult.”

She felt she had a really solid first round and started her second round tied for 13th place, which she felt comfortable in. “The second round was disappointing, but I am happy that I stayed in it till the very end,” Janert said, adding that playing 36 holes is one of the hardest things she has ever done.

“This qualifier was my first time playing two rounds back-to-back, and I don’t think anything could have prepared me for it,” she said. “As someone who works out four to five times a week in addition to practicing, I thought my body was ready. But as it turns out, 12 miles and 10 hours on your feet, and the mental strain of 36 holes can really tire someone out.”

Angela Stanford of Texas makes a strong showing at the U.S. Women’s Open Qualifier, April 23.

Janert plans to play in a couple more tournaments over the next few months. “My main priority is preparing for the next school year where I will be playing golf at Cal State Fullerton after transferring from the University of La Verne,” she said. “I am beyond excited to be a Titan and a member of the CSUF Women’s Golf Team.”

Florida’s Samantha Wagner and Jimin Nam of Fullerton, compare golf balls before the beginning of Round 2 of the U.S. Women’s Open Qualifier at Soboba Springs Golf Course, April 23.

Her boyfriend, Aidan, served as her caddy. The two met playing golf while in middle school. She said, “He has a lot of confidence in my abilities and knows how to make me smile, which kept me going throughout the day. While he is not my coach, he is someone I can trust to make sure things look good. I love that I can talk golf with him.”

Rules official Ed Holmes welcomed players to Hole 1 for both rounds which he said is a big par 4 at 354 yards with a dogleg left. “With a preponderance of amateur players, many times there’s a surprise; the best players don’t always win,” he said.

Jayden Peters from Agoura Hills lines up her shot at Hole 1 at Soboba Springs Golf Course.

The Riverside resident said he himself has played at this golf course at least 50 times. He has been a member of SCGA for 35 years, serving as president in 2007. “Since Soboba got this golf course, the improvement has been spectacular,” he said.

Becky Eustice, a rules official from Rancho Mirage, stayed busy greeting golfers at Hole 10 and explaining the rules. “Some are amateurs, and some are professionals; they all play together for this one,” she said. Although she follows women’s golf and has played for a long time, she said it is not of this caliber.

More exciting events can be expected at Soboba Springs Golf Course, when it plays host to the PGA American’s Tour Q-School the first week of June, the PGA Champions Tour Q-School in November along with Asian Q-School, which will also be in November.

Sierra Madre’s Zoe Sprecher places her golf ball on the tee during Round 2 play at Soboba Springs, April 23.
From left, golfers Angelina Tao of Coto De Caza, Haylee Harford of Ohio and Corina Kelepouris of La Quinta listen to the rules as they prepare to tee off for Round 2 near the SCGA booth at hole 10.

For more information, www.soboba.com, www.scga.org and www.uswomensopen.com.

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