Nassau Country Club honors Women's Amateur

Danielle Kang, the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Women's Danielle Kang, the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Women's Amateur champion, puts on a clinic for young golfers at Nassau Country Club, which will host the event in 2014. (July 6, 2013) Photo Credit: James Escher

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Pro tour golfer Danielle Kang flew all the way across the country, for the second time in a week, without receiving an appearance fee, all to promote a tournament in which she has no chance of participating.

That says all you need to know about the U.S. Women's Amateur, which will be held next August at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove. It will be a historic occasion at Nassau, which asked the U.S. Golf Association if it could host the event in 2014, marking the 100th anniversary of the first Women's Amateur at the club.

But in the eyes of people who have played in it and won it, the Women's Amateur is special every year. Thus Kang, who flew home to California last Monday after playing the U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack, flew back on Friday to be part of a youth clinic and a special match Saturday with fellow LPGA pro Lizette Salas, a five-time participant in the Women's Amateur, who had the same schedule last week.

The event in Saturday's withering humidity was Nassau's official kickoff for the 2014 national championship that is likely to include Levittown's Annie Park as well as Casie Cathrea, the low amateur at Sebonack, and possibly 16-year-old phenom Lydia Ko, if she hasn't turned pro by then.

"It's awesome that they asked me to come back. It's an honor," said Kang, 20, who won the Women's Amateur in 2010 and 2011, before earning her tour card. "I just love it that I'm even in a position to come and play the golf course where they're going to hold the Amateur. I just wish I could do it again sometime."

Vickie Goetze Ackerman, a former LPGA pro and now a television commentator, flew in from Florida to emcee the clinic and announce the match for a few dozen Nassau members who followed in carts. She won the Women's Amateur at 16 in 1989 and won it again in 1992, beating Annika Sorenstam with a par on the last hole of the final match.

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"This is really cool. I was honored I was asked. This is a sacrifice for the club, too. I just wanted to be a part of it," Goetze Ackerman said.

"I feel I'll always have a place in history. My name will always be on the trophy. My son is almost at the age [7] where he understands it," Goetze Ackerman said.

"That part of it is cool, especially because -- and I don't know why he would feel this way -- when he was younger, he was like, 'Girls don't play sports.' I was like 'Whoa, whoa, whoa.' I feel like I'm able to share my experiences and give him life lessons through the sports."

About 40 youngsters were -- despite the heat -- enthusiastic about the lessons they received from Kang and Salas. The kids learned about driving and putting and about the pros' lives. Kang, for instance, admitted that her brother is better than she is (he's on the Canadian men's tour) and that she just bought six turtles.

In an interview later, she said that her amateur titles, with her dad on the bag, were among the best moments of her life. "There's something about the USGA, it's just so welcoming," she said.

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Goetze Ackerman said the Women's Amateur will be worth watching, even for a region that is used to watching men's U.S. Opens and a PGA Tour playoff event. "This is the future of the game, and it's watching young people fulfill their dreams," she said.

Club historian Doug Fletcher, who organized the event, said, "I think it's a great honor to do something that no other club has really done, to host the same event 100 years later. There's a certain purity about amateur golf. These players came here, unpaid, just for the love of the game."

Competition: Ryan McCarthy of Hempstead Golf & CC won the 2013 Long Island Junior Championship at Glen Cove GC Wednesday with a 1-up victory over James Smoot Jr. of Huntington CC.

Outing:The benefit for the Outreach program at St. Jude's Church in Mastic Beach, twice postponed by rain, has been rescheduled for Aug. 6 at Rock Hill Golf & Country Club, Manorville. New entries still are invited. Call 631-921-6793.

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