Kelly Shon, shown here competing in the Nassau County boys...

Kelly Shon, shown here competing in the Nassau County boys golf team and individual championships, will compete in the U.S. Women's Open this week. (May 26, 2010) Credit: James A. Escher

Playing golf is as much a part of Kelly Shon's life these days as breathing, and sometimes it is hard to say which ranks first.

Shon, a Port Washington High School graduate, had a good sophomore season this past spring for Princeton, although she spent a large part of it getting over gastroenteritis. By the time the Ivy League championship began, she was feeling better, except for one thing.

"It was a really bad allergy season for me," she said the other day, recalling that in the first day of the league tournament, her allergies were so bad that she had to lie down on a bench, which only made the condition worse. "I couldn't breathe," she said.

During a night in the emergency room, she was diagnosed with pneumonia and instructed not to finish the tournament. But she told coach Nicki Cutler, a former teacher at Maidstone Club in East Hampton, that she would feel even worse if she couldn't play. So she finished the final two rounds, placed seventh individually, made the All-Ivy squad and earned admiration from her teammates.

Plus, she bounced back well enough after school ended to reach the match play phase of the U.S. Public Links and to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open, in which she will play this week. The event will be held in Kohler, Wis., at Blackwolf Run, a tough course that yielded a winning score of 6 over par the last time the women's Open was held there.

Shon begins on the 10th tee Thursday morning at 8:11, in the group right behind Annie Park of Levittown. Shon will play with LPGA Tour rookies Jane Rah of California and Victoria Tanco of Argentina.

"I'm not completely satisfied with the way I've been playing, but I'm getting better and better," Shon said, adding that she spent more time last week on Long Island practicing rather than playing rounds of golf.

Her golf resume includes three wins on the American Junior Golf Association circuit in tournaments that attract international fields. She took up the sport when she was young and her mother needed someone to fill out a foursome. It turned out Shon had a gift for it.

The sociology major eventually would like to play on the LPGA Tour, but if that does not work out, she might try marketing.

It could very well work out. She played last year in the Open, considered the most prestigious tournament for women, and missed the cut by only one shot. "Playing in the Open for the first time, I learned a lot," she said. "What I will incorporate this year is that I learned to just play your own game no matter what."

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