SYLVANIA, Ohio - In Marissa Steen’s dreams, her first LPGA round always went like this. She knew she belonged all along. She’s proved that with her No. 2 standing on the money list on the Symetra Tour this season and felt she belonged playing at the U.S. Women’s Open when two bad holes on Friday kept her from making the cut. However, proving it at the game’s highest level is another story, and even she couldn’t have drawn up her first LPGA start any better. The nerves were non-existent, and her game was sharp from the start.
After ho humming along at even par through 13 holes, Steen went on a tear to finish. She piled up four birdies in the five-hole stretch to finish, walking through the 18th hole ropes to sign autographs with a 4-under 67 on the card and her short-lived Thursday role as the leader in the clubhouse.
“It really is [a dream start],” Steen said. “I don’t think it’s really set in yet. I don’t think I want it to. I just want to stay within myself for the rest of the week and just see how low I can go and have fun out here.”
With the Symetra Tour off this week, Steen decided to Monday qualify and shot a 67 to earn her spot in the field. She thought the nerves would be there on the opening tee, but credits the Symetra Tour for her preparation.
“The only way to get better is to play competitive golf. Especially over here in the States. [The Symetra Tour] gives girls a good place to play and hone their skills and get the competition week in and week out,” Steen said.
Despite her success so far this week, the plan won’t change for the rest of the year for Steen. She may try to Monday qualify for the LPGA whenever the Symetra Tour is off, but her goal remains the same: No. 1 on the money list on the Symetra Tour. And seeing Mo Martin, who developed her game for years on the Road to the LPGA, win the Women’s British Open last week showed Steen that she’s exactly on the right track.
“I think Mo is just a great example of staying within yourself and not getting down and steadily just working hard. You reap rewards when you do that,” Steen said. “I feel like I can relate to her a lot. It’s exciting to see that, kind of a new name up on top and someone that came through in a big tournament. Definitely exciting.”
Each year on the Symetra Tour, Martin said her game got progressively better. Each year it was closer and closer to where she felt like Sunday’s win at Royal Birkdale could one day become a reality. Steen’s seen the same in her game. She’s not saying she’s on her way to a major championship like Martin but is confident she’s got the game to hang out here.
“I definitely feel like I can relate to her. This is my third season on Symetra. I’ve gotten better each year, but I really feel like now I’m ready to be out here full time and I’m really excited.”
If Thursday’s first round is any indication, Steen certainly belongs.