There’s no rush like being in contention: the crowds roaring, adrenaline pumping, every shot elevating in status, pressure rising down the stretch.
Katherine Perry and Jaye Marie Green both had those moments this year. Perry burst back onto the scene with a T9 at the Pure Silk Championship. Green finished T5 at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Players never think about it in the moment but later the question seeps in like a poison: what if that competitive high, that rush, the hyper-vigilant focus never happens again? It’s a question both Green and Perry faced as the year progressed.
They found their answer in the early rounds of the Volunteers of America Classic. Each sits at seven-under going into the weekend.
“It has been a career year. It's been a little up and down, just the excitement of the Pure Silk and then playing pretty well, making a lot of cuts there. I just, I didn't keep moving forward like I really wanted to, but I feel like my game's in a good spot right now,” Perry explained after play Friday.
Perry entered the 2019 season at 368th on the LPGA priority list, playing in only one tournament before charging into the fold at the Pure Silk Championship. Taking advantage of limited opportunities is a theme of the North Carolina native’s LPGA career.
Perry decided before the 2016 qualifying school that she’d quit golf if she didn’t retain her LPGA Tour card. She finished T14.
Her first year on the LPGA Tour in 2017, she finished 122nd on the money list off a full schedule. Looking to improve her status, she went to 2017 Q-School, finishing T50 to improve her spot on the priority list.
Perry ended up with only 10 starts in 2018, finishing 136th on the money list. Like a metronome, Perry went back to Q-Series for the third consecutive year. She was unable to improve her status.
She had to take alternate routes to competition in 2019. She made six Epson Tour starts and tried Monday qualifiers to get into LPGA fields. Perry successfully Monday qualified into the Kia Classic, but missed the cut. She Monday qualified again at the Pure Silk Championship in May, two months after her previous LPGA start.
The pressure was on for Perry, as it was the final tournament before the first priority list reshuffle for the season.
She sat tied for 31st after the cut. Then, came her career saving weekend blitz, her first career top 10 on the LPGA Tour.
Perry was shuffled up 227 positions on the priority list. She backed up the Pure Silk Championship with a T26 at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, giving her a chance to secure full status. She consistently made cuts the rest of season, playing on the weekend for six of her next nine starts. She hasn’t capitalized on those weekend opportunities, as her best finish over that stretch was T54. She now sits 118th on the money list, with two rounds to go.
With another big moment in front of her, Perry brought her swing coach Robert Linville to Texas. They’re working on a couple of adjustments in her down swing to let her turn more through her shot.
More importantly for Perry, her mental game is where she wants it to be. “I feel like emotionally I kind of stayed pretty constant, which is the goal,” Perry said.
That focus will help Perry accomplish her goal of avoiding Q-Series for the fourth consecutive year.
Green has also battled to regain the feeling she had in May in Charleston at the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I think about that Open almost every day. That was a tough one for me,” Green reflected after play Friday in Dallas. “People say, ‘Oh, great top-five,’ but in my heart I won that thing.”
Green’s T5 at the U.S. Women’s Open was her first top 10 since the 2017 ShopRite Classic. She’s worked on staying patient since her best major performance. Green’s made five of 11 cuts since the pinnacle of her 2019 season. In an effort to find that peak again, Green’s trying to not over correct.
“I've been working on not changing. Sometimes when I want to get better, I'm like, you could get better without changing things. So that's what I've been really working on is just kind of swinging my swing, playing my own game, because that's what got me close at the U.S. Open, so I've been trying to just harness that energy,” Green explained.
As she finds herself in contention again, she looks back on her run at the U.S. Women’s Open as a turning point for her heading into the weekend.
“I think the U.S. Women’s Open helped a lot. I told my brother, ‘Wow, I haven’t felt this in a while with the camera around,’” Green explained after a second round 68.
Like Perry, the American turns to those close to her to keep her centered in the moment on the course. Her brother Matt is next to her as her caddie. She’s learned to trust him more as the season has progressed. “I'm learning to be more open minded because usually when I see a shot, I just know I want to hit it instead of taking in what he has to say,” Green said. “He actually clubbed me really good today because I was definitely going over the greens.”
Green hit 14 of 18 greens both days. She capitalized on the opportunities with nine birdies, putting herself in contention for the first time in five months.
“Growing up when all you know is golf is really hard because when it doesn't go your way, you base your whole emotions and attitude on golf, which is really hard to do,” she said. “I struggle with it a lot. But knowing that golf is just what you do, it's not who you are, sometimes it's really hard to feel that, but to have things outside of golf really helps.”