Aug 28

Portland Classic – Marissa Steen

Marissa Steen Late Bloomer

Maybe I just think everything about the Portland stop on the LPGA tour every year is so interesting because it’s my home town. You’ll have to pardon me for that. Maybe it’s so interesting because almost every year, it’s a tournament that I can attend. That’s where I’ve gotten to meet some of the players. It’s a beautiful place where you meet the professionals as nice people by being one first. Everyone at Columbia Edgewater seems to understand that, and it’s one of my favorite times of year.

Things are a little different this year. For one thing, it’s not the Safeway Classic anymore. It’s the Portland Classic, sponsored by someone else. Secondly, I couldn’t be there this year. I’m in Bend, nearer to the center of the state. Too bad – I just didn’t time it right this year.
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steen 2 From last year, I remember that the defending champion is Suzann Pettersen. She hasn’t been heard from quite so much lately, but I suspect that she’s still in recoup mode. My next item to talk about involved a slough of new names near the top of the leaderboard after the first round – Amelia Lewis, Jennifer Song, Alison Walshe, Emma Jandel, Pula Reto, and Mina Harigae? Now I know that the game is alive and well, with all these new names crowding the top at five and six under.

My next question is, where is Michelle Wie? Wrist injuries don’t just go away overnight, especially in golf, but I hope that hers last for as little time as possible.

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Hey, it’s not all youth – Julie Inkster continues to play well, and is sneaking around at four under. Yani Tseng is at two under, and I’d love to see her get back into form.

steen 1However, here’s what interested me most about this year’s tournament in Portland – Marissa Steen. “Marissa Steen?” Yes, “Marissa Steen” – and all because I read another writer describing her as a late bloomer. I love late bloomers. They’re almost as good as great underdog stories. The term “late bloomer” is like catnip to me. Here, we have an Ohio girl who didn’t start the game until her mid-teens, played a bunch of sports well, finally chose golf, and ended up in Memphis, despite the plethora of upper Midwestern schools. Her coach there seemed to have the right answers. Already a long hitter, she was reshaped from 100 yards in, and her putting was…let’s say, “enhanced.” All right, I’ll say it like I read it there. She was called Thor because she putted as if she were using a hammer. According to the coach, hers was some of the worst collegiate putting ever seen.

That, however, is all behind Marissa Steen now. She’s won three times on the Symetra Tour, has won some nice change, and just got promoted to the LPGA, starting this week.

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Of course, my first search on the leaderboard was for Marissa, along with Charley Hull, the British phenom I had really hoped to meet this year.

All right, Marrissa! Even par for the first round. That’s not exactly winning the tournament, but it’s more than respectable, when you consider that she’s tied with Shanshan Feng.

In a year with news story after news story about miracle children becoming great golfers years before they can drive or vote, it was refreshing to read about a young woman, now in her early twenties, who worked her tail off to get here at all, no matter whether it was a little bit later than most.

I’ll miss not walking around Columbia Edgewater this year. It’s such beautiful country, and the atmosphere is terrific during and after the tournament.

So, get well, Michelle, Hang on, Charley – we’ll meet some other time, and (sorry, I just can’t help it), “Go Melissa!”

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