Local Sports

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pro Golf: BG's Powers living her dreams


SYLVANIA -- For most youngsters, becoming a professional athlete falls into the "wildest dreams" category and is never realized.

Caroline Powers is an exception. Having wrapped up an amateur career that included all-Ohio recognition at Bowling Green High School and All-American honors at Michigan State, the 22-year-old turned professional just before playing in last month's U.S. Women's Open and is now a member of the Symetra Tour, the lower circuit of the LPGA Tour.

"Every year in elementary school when you have to write down on the paper what you're going to be when you grow up, I was like, 'I'm going to be in the LPGA,'" she said after a practice session at Highland Meadows Golf Club for this week's Marathon Classic, in which she will play on a sponsor's exemption.

Some of her teachers may well have thought she was fantasizing and thought she was bound for something more common to the work-a-day world, but they never let on.

"They'd just nod and smile and say, 'You can do it, Caroline,'" Powers said. "But I think a lot of kids have big dreams and they don't always get the opportunity to fulfill them. It's been fun -- high school, college and being here now. It's actually happened."

Powers stepped into the deep end of the pool by making her pro debut in the U.S. Women's Open at Seabonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. While she missed the cut, she still found it to be a positive experience.

"It was unbelievable," she said. "I didn't really have any expectations going into it, but once I got there I definitely felt like I belonged. That was a good boost for me, just to feel like I should be out there."

Powers played better than most in the first round, carding a 73. Trouble brewed in the second round, though, and an 80 brought a missed cut.

She chalked it up as "absolutely" a learning experience.

"I played well the first day and the second day I just let a couple of shots get away from me," Powers said. "But I still felt like I had everything to make the cut and do well after that. You've just got to minimize a couple of more mistakes and you're right there."

Like many others, Powers hopes her experience on the Symetra Tour will pay off with a spot on the LPGA Tour in the near future. In her first Symetra event, the Decatur (Ill.)-Forsyth Classic, she tied for 10th. She followed by tying for 52nd in the Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Ind. She has made $2,284.

"There are a lot of good players out there and they're all trying to make it to the LPGA, so it's just getting through that breaking point," Powers said. "There's a fine line of what the difference is. So it's just getting your opportunities and taking them when they present themselves."

The opportunity at hand is to do well in a tournament at which she worked as a volunteer as a youngster.

"I came here when I was real little and watched the girls and ran the scores (to scorekeepers)," she said. "I feel like I've been around here my whole life, so it's fun to be on the other side of the ropes."

She'll also enjoy the chance to perform in front of familiar faces -- something that hasn't come often for her.

"I expect to see a lot of my family and friends around," she said. "That's always fun and kind of gives you a sense of calm, that you're right where you belong."

UNDER PRESSURE: Inbee Park is three-fifths of the way to the women's Grand Slam. Victories in the Women's British Open at St. Andrews, Scotland on Aug. 4 and in the Evian Masters in France on Sept. 15 would seal the historic deal.

She's receiving attention that she never has before, and she acknowledged that she's feeling some extra weight on her shoulders.

"The first major (the Kraft Nabisco Championship), I didn't really think about any kind of history or anything," she said. "After winning the second one (the Wegmans LPGA Championship), in the interview with the Golf Channel, they told me I was just the third person to win two major tournaments in a row. After the tournament, I started to think a little bit about going in a row of major championships. After the U.S. Open, I felt a lot more pressure than those two before."

This year is the first for the Evian to hold "major" status, so the path to a Grand Slam this year is beyond convention. With that in mind, Park, last year's Evian champion, believes she could lay claim to a Grand Slam with a Women's British Open title but not this year's Evian.

"It's four out of five, and I've won Evian before," she said. "So truly, if I win the British Open, I put my name on every major trophy."

FEELING LUCKY: So Yeon Ryu hopes she received a quick omen of repeating as the tournament champion when she arrived in Toledo.

"Sunday, when I arrived here, I went to a Chinese restaurant and I got a fortune cookie," the South Korean said.

"It said, 'You will get what your heart desires.' I was so happy. I really want to believe it and my heart desires to win the tournament. Hopefully, I'll get another trophy here and I'll feel really great."

Ryu is fourth on this season's LPGA money list, having won $824,731, but she did miss a major cut at the LPGA Championship. A lesson she learned from that experience could help her in her quest to repeat at Highland Meadows.

"The really hard thing was last year I finished (in the) top five at (the Wegmans) at this tournament, so maybe I have to play well; I have to finish better than last year," she said. "It was really hard.

"So I just reset my mind. Every year is different. Also, every tournament is different. So just forget about last year and then focus on now. Just think about what I can do right now."

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