Among the many remarkable features in Kelly Shon’s career-best, record-tying 63 in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last week was the fact she did nothing out of the ordinary to prepare for it. Maybe that was why it happened. She never gave in or let up.
“The season has been rough until a few weeks ago,” the Port Washington resident said on the phone this week from Wisconsin, the latest stop on the LPGA tour. “As cliché as it sounds, I’ve just been taking it one step at a time, just grinding it out. I’ve been probably at one of my lowest points, but at the same time it didn’t stop me from working as hard as I always have. I think God had mercy on me.”
After months of consistent and persistent practice, Shon’s season took a sharp upturn with her tie for ninth in the major championship last week. Her finish at Olympia Fields outside Chicago also gave her momentum for the next major, the U.S. Women’s Open next week in Bedminster, New Jersey — the closest thing to a home game she will have this year.
“I already know a few of my friends are coming. I love it. When you have people there for you, people who believe in you, it means a lot. I always see myself as a team player and I see them as part of my team,” she said, adding that she regularly corresponds with members of her church in Nassau County.
She rarely gets back to Long Island because she never takes a week off. “I would have, if I had had a better season,” she said.
Her point is that she believes she needs every start to boost her position on the LPGA money list so she can keep her tour card for next season.
The encouragement she took from her 63 — tied with LPGA greats Patty Sheehan and Meg Mallon for the best second-round score in tournament history — was that it capped a trend. She has made the cut in four of the past five tournaments and reached 66th on the official money list (Annie Park of Levittown is No. 142).
Very recently, Shon checked employment listings to see who might hire a Princeton graduate.
“The first half of the season made me kind of rethink my life,” she said, adding that she never did let misgivings cut into her time on the driving range. “The work ethic to put in those hours has been ingrained in me from a long time ago. Someone said that being able to enjoy long practices is a skill in itself.
“I’ve never been one to get too far ahead of myself and jump up and down,” she said. “It would be ridiculous to say just because I’ve had one good result that I’m going to win my next tournament. I’ve got to put the preparation into it.”
There is no easy way to prepare for what the U.S. Women’s Open might bring next week at Trump National in Bedminster. Officials are bracing for protests but are not sure what form they might take. Pros intend to just play.
“This is our job, and golf and politics don’t really mix,” Shon said. “Obviously, I have my beliefs and point of view on things. I’ll speak for myself, and I’m sure some of the other ladies feel this way too: We don’t want to let people down, but women in the realm of sports don’t really have the luxury of picking and choosing. I guess I’ll just leave it at that.”
However discouraging her job can be at times, days like the one she had last week remind her why she loves it. “I’ve made real friendships with people I would never have met otherwise,” she said. “I’m grateful to golf.”
Kevin Connolly, Plandome CC, third hole, 154 yards, 7-iron
Les Paschalson, Willow Creek G&CC, 16th hole, 150 yards, 5-iron
Jimmy Duignan, Pine Hills CC, 17th hole, 157 yards, 7-iron
Chris Leddy, Bergen Point GC, 17th hole, 172 yards, 5-wood
Alan Ptak, Lake Success GC, sixth hole, 190 yards, 3-wood
Stevens Hollmand, Spring Lake GC, sixth hole, 153 yards, 7-iron
Bob Sorenson, Middle Island CC Spruce, eighth hole, 140 yards, 8-iron
Dan Severin, Brookville CC, 16th hole, 178 yards, 23-degree hybrid
Phil Burke, Cherry Valley Club, ninth hole, 203 yards, 5-wood
Jim Emmert, Cherry Valley Club, 17th hole, 150 yards, 9-iron
Ron Pollio, Cherry Valley Club, fifth hole, 160 yards, 6-iron
Steve Iovino, Cherry Valley Club, ninth hole, 200 yards, 3-wood
John Schnabel, Wheatley Hills GC, 10th hole, 196 yards, 4-hybrid