11 Aug 2022 | Amateur golf | Professional golf |
Aussie Amateurs taken into the action on Epson Tour
by Dane Heverin
Two of Australia’s most promising female amateur golfers, Caitlin Peirce and Belinda Ji, were thrust into the world of professional golf last week as they caddied for Australian Epson Tour players Emily Mahar and Soo Jin Lee in Indiana.
Peirce and Ji are currently touring the United States playing amateur tournaments and after missing out on qualification for this week’s US Women’s Amateur, Golf Australia’s female pathway manager Stacey Peters organised the opportunity for them to go inside the ropes at the French Lick Charity Classic.
“Once the girls missed out on the US Women’s Amateur we thought ‘how can we get them to have another fantastic learning experience?’,” Peters said.
“The idea popped up to get them to caddie - Caitlin for Emily and Belinda for Soo Jin - to become immersed in a professional golf tournament for a week.
“Emily and Soo Jin were more than happy to have the help and it was brilliant to see their investment in the next crop of Australians coming through the ranks, and Caitlin and Belinda were thrilled to get a taste of it.”
South Australian Peirce and New South Wales’ Ji quickly warmed to the task and received glowing reviews from their bosses for the week as a result.
“Cailtin was really helpful. The last two days when my score was trending in the wrong direction she was still just as helpful,” Mahar, who finished 60th, said.
“She was really prepared and understanding of what I needed from her. I’m very very grateful for her and for Golf Australia for allowing her to help out.”
Lee, who missed the cut, was similarly delighted, but also expressed her sympathy for Peirce and Ji.
“Thank you so much to Golf Australia for letting them come out and caddie! It was a really tough course to walk, I felt a little sorry for them,” she said.
“Belinda helped a lot on the golf course. I was struggling reading greens but she definitely helped on that! I hope she enjoyed seeing how we work and live as a professional.”
As for Peirce and Ji themselves, the duo were still pinching themselves after the experience.
“It was very useful to see what a week can be like on the Epson Tour, the challenges the players face and the differences from amateur golf. It will definitely help me down the track, it is nice to know what can be expected during an Epson week and definitely makes the idea of playing professionally less daunting,” Peirce said.
“This week as well as the rest of my trip in the US has definitely motivated me to make some changes in my game. It also makes me excited to come back again and play more tournaments.”
Ji is also highly driven from her time carrying the bag.
“To witness first-hand what a true test of golf was at the Pete Dye Course with tight fairways, small greens and plenty of undulation has shown me the skills and shots required to compete at the highest level,” she said.
“All the players I spoke to are very friendly which makes life on tour more comfortable. It was also fun to catch up with the other Aussies at this event!
“This experience has motivated me to continue to work hard after seeing what’s required as a pro as this is eventually where I want to play and on the LPGA.”
For Peirce, the week added to the time she spent with seven-time major champion Karrie Webb during her American trip as part of the Australian legend’s scholarship program - read the story here - and Mahar - who has also been mentored by Webb - believes these types of experience are invaluable for young Australians.
“It was really cool having Caitlin caddie for me. I think I would have really liked that opportunity if I was an amateur,” she said. “Obviously I’ve only been a pro for a few months but I think just getting the exposure to a tour professional event, in my opinion, there’s extra hype about professional events compared to some of the big amateur events.”
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