HARRISON, N.Y. - In terms of sheer distance, Port Washington is not terribly far from the Westchester Country Club. Kelly Shon's route from Point A to Point B is proof that mileage isn't everything. She has made it a long way in a short time, from playing against Nassau high school boys in 2010 to playing against the greatest players in the world here this week.
It isn't just a matter of playing against them, either. Shon has shown as an LPGA Tour rookie that she can keep up with them. She made it into the final group at the ShopRite LPGA Classic two weeks ago, tying for third. It was a remarkable trip, considering it seems like yesterday she was playing the local junior tournament circuit and setting what was then a girls record by placing second in the boys county championship.
A year ago, with the ink still fresh on her Princeton diploma, she wasn't sure she even had the interest or the game to go on tour. But she gave it a shot on the developmental Symetra Tour, earned her LPGA card, contended in her debut in the Bahamas (tying for 11th) and was right there near the top of the leader board at the ShopRite -- one of the tour's top stops.
"The first hole, I was a little emotional but I got over that hump. My caddie helped me. We were just talking, like it was a normal round. I was just having fun. I was having too much fun to think about nerves or the pressure or anything," she said on Wednesday on the range at Westchester, where she will play on Thursday in the KPMG Women's PGA, her first major as a pro. "I'm happy about the way I handled myself the last round. I think I surprised a lot of people. With pleasant surprises like that, I'm happy."
Her $87,486 for that week is testimony to a career that is rounding into one big pleasant surprise. In her mind, there is nothing mystical about her sudden development at 23. "Just the time and effort I've put in," she said, adding that in her first month on the Symetra Tour, "I played more golf than I did in the past four years."
The LPGA has a unique mentoring system in which rookies are assigned to "pods" with veterans. Shon's tutors are Morgan Pressel (who also was in the last group at ShopRite), Wendy Ward and Heather Daly-Donofrio. The groups get together at tour stops to just kick it around.
"The more questions you ask, the more answers you're going to get," Shon said. "I don't ask too many questions but I think the questions I do ask are pretty decent. Or necessary, I should say."
She is learning to deal with the ebb and flow: the missed cuts, homesickness on the West Coast and great moments such as getting to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ Tuesday. "I was honored. Most people who get a chance to do something like that have accomplished a lot more than I have thus far in my life. It was an unknown dream come true," she said.
Shon's dreams are not limited to golf. She still is thinking about joining the Peace Corps and serving in Mongolia. She got the idea from a college friend whom she visited in Wisconsin during a Symetra Tour event.
"Helping strangers in far, far remote places, yes. It's just the strangeness of it and the novelty of it all," she said. "It fascinates me."
For now, though, she is immersed in the strange, novel world of major pro tour golf, which had seemed to be worlds away not that long ago.
The Lindenhurst Football Alumni Association will hold its second annual golf outing July 20 at Hamlet Wind Watch, Hauppauge. Call 631-991-8822 . . . Play for Kayla, an outing to aid the recovery of Kayla Marianetti, a 17-month-old injured in a near-drowning accident, will be July 23 at Spring Lake Golf Club, Middle Island. Call 631-924-5115 ext. 2.