Up until the call that changed her life – maybe even her career – Jaye Marie Green had been in a rut for much of 2015. Everything that seemed like it could go wrong on the golf course did, and she’d only made five cuts in the first 14 starts.
But part of what makes golf such a beautiful sport is what a notoriously fickle game it can be, and it took her older brother, Matt, who is on the bag for her this week, to remind her of that when she returned from Arkansas after another disappointing missed cut.
“I was kind of in a really deep little hole, and he goes, ‘Jaye, it’s okay, you’re doing great, you just need to catch one break.’” Green said. “You’re going to get one good break or one putt or something crazy to happen and it’s going to change your life.”
One putt that lips in instead of out. One errant drive that kicks in the fairway instead of out bounds. In a game where the line’s so thin between a top-10 and a missed cut, that’s all it can take to reverse the tide.
In Jaye’s case, it was neither. Instead, it was a completely unexpected call 2.5 weeks ago on a Monday from the USGA saying that as the second alternate she was into the field at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Just like her brother said would happen, she got her break and made the most of it with her best finish in eight major appearances with a tie for 26th at the U.S. Women’s Open, which included a final day 3-under-par 69.
“I got in the U.S. Open and it’s gone my way ever since, so he was right,” Green said. “Big brother’s always right.”
The money she made at the U.S. Women’s Open ($34,363) isn’t career changing or life changing, but the impact that week could have in the future could be because it’s had a snowball effect.
“Crazy, changed my life for sure,” she says of that call.
She followed up her unexpected week at a major championship with an even better finish - a tie for 18th the following week at the Marathon Classic – that also earned her a spot in the RICOH Women’s British Open. Also, her paychecks in back-to-back weeks combined for almost more than she had made in the entire six months prior. Over the course of those two tournaments, she moved from 90th on the money list to 67th – the type of jump that can mean the difference in what fields she’s able to get into for the remainder of this year and next.
It continued Thursday when she posted her best round of the year – a first-round 6-under-par 65 – that has her just one shot out of the lead at the Meijer LPGA Classic Presented by Kraft. As she’d hoped, her surge of confidence has continued to snowball into the subsequent weeks.
“Felt so confident because I shot 3-under the last round [at the USWO] and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I just shot under par on a Sunday in a U.S. Open!’” Green said. “Then the next course feels like a piece of cake, and then now coming into this week, it’s like the confidence just keeps tacking on.”
“It is kind of cool to think like, ‘Wow, I’ve made like over 50,000 in two weeks when it took me almost like a whole year to do that. But I’m not – that’s what’s cool, too, is I think I thought a lot about money last year. I honestly never look at rankings. Sometimes if I play well I want to be like, oh, I made this much, but I never really stress about it, not nearly as much as last year.”
Nothing about last year – her rookie season – was seamless for the former No. 1 amateur. Everything from food to the courses came with an adjustment. She’s a self-admitted talker, on the short list of the Tour’s most gregarious social butterflies, but it was more the circumstances than the company.
“Everything last year was hard for me,” she said. “The traveling, meeting new people, food not – you know, not really having mom’s – which is so weird. I think that really bothered me a lot because I was so used to my mom’s cooking all the time and I’m like used to it and my body is used to it. Out here, always eating out all the time, my body was like – I almost felt like so tired and worn out all the time. I think not seeing friends, not really knowing the places, it was kind of like let’s get this over with, whereas this year I look forward like ‘Oh, I can’t wait to go to Michigan or go to Founders,’ because you know, going back to places has been awesome.”
It’s improved the efficiency of her time at the golf course. Rather than play three practice rounds a week in a hurried effort to learn an unfamiliar track, she’ll play once and devote the rest of her time to areas of her game that need work.
It’s why she’s starting the last couple of weeks to see flashes of the old Jaye that just three summers ago dueled Lydia Ko to the second to last hole of the 36-hole championship match at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“I think the main thing is my putting. I’ve been making a lot of putts, where usually they just burn the edges,” Green said. “But today I had all tap-ins so I’m hitting good iron shots. I think growing up I’ve always been a good iron player. I kind of lost that a little bit and it’s coming back. I’m starting to hit some really good iron shots to put me in there to where I don’t really have to putt.”
With five players between ages 18-20 in the top 18 of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, it’s easy to forget that the rapid acclimation processes of once-in-a-generation players like Ko isn’t the norm, and the adjustment period usually takes time.
At only 21, Green’s surely still got plenty of that.
“I think I’m like, wow, I’m so young and just to be able to do what I’m doing and how much I love it is just that in itself is so cool to me,” Green said. “I’m like really starting to appreciate things more this year and actually having fun, so that’s good.”
For her, all it took was one break or one call - just like brother said.