When you first meet her, Janie Jackson seems stoic and intense, serious about things both on and off the golf course. But after making a hole-in-one on No. 4 at Highland Oaks in round five of LPGA Q-Series, she couldn’t help but crack a smile. The par-3 played 129 yards on Thursday and Jackson pulled a pitching wedge en route to hitting a perfect shot, the highlight of her 4-under, 68 effort.
“It was 130. I took a little bit off it. I liked the ball flight. It was low, just held its line perfectly. Landed a couple paces behind the pin and rolled back in,” said Jackson, whose first competition ace came at the 2021 Carlisle Golf Classic. “It was a good shot, but you never know until it actually drops. I had never even had a hole in one until March earlier this year, and now I've had my second. It's kind of cool. Got a high five from everybody in the group. It's always nice to be able to walk up to the green without a putter in your hand. (There won’t be any) drinking. That will have to wait a couple days. But it was a fun feeling.”
The Huntsville, Ala. native spent much of 2021 teeing it up on the Epson Tour, nabbing one victory at the Guardian Championship and one top-10 at the Epson Tour Championship (T8). Jackson handily advanced to week two in Dothan after firing three rounds in the 60s last week at Magnolia Grove and considering she’s been in the professional ranks since 2016, she isn’t feeling as much pressure as some of her counterparts.
“Eight rounds of competitive golf, it's not easy for anybody to go out and go super deep every single day. It's just a patience thing,” said Jackson. “I've been here before and there were a couple times I could have gotten frustrated because I didn't make some putts or I missed in a place where I didn't want to miss, but one errant hole or one errant swing isn't going to hurt you. You just have to stay patient.
“I don't really feel any nerves this week. I've been out of school for five years and it's taken me longer than I would've liked. I've come to learn that whenever it's my time, it's my time, whether it be this week or not. That's just sort of my mindset. If it happens for me, great. If not, I'm just going to keep working for it.”
Besides golf, there was one other thing on Jackson’s mind early in these two weeks at LPGA Q-Series: University of Alabama football. A former member of the women’s golf team, she’s understandably invested in the success of her alma mater’s athletic programs and was surprised when the football team defeated the Georgia Bulldogs to win the SEC Championship last Saturday. And when asked what was more nerve-wracking, Q-Series or the college football playoffs, Jackson joked that she couldn’t decide.
“Tough call. No, I'm kidding,” joked Jackson. “I was super surprised. I shouldn't say surprised, but I was really happy. I missed the first quarter of that game because we were still playing, but I think that was like the only time we were down was in the first quarter. So I'm glad I missed that, otherwise I probably would've been really nervous watching the TV. But the team looked awesome. We'll see if we have to play Georgia again, what happens.”
YU-CHIANG HOU HAPPY TO HAVE SISTER YU-SANG COMPETING WITH HER IN DOTHAN
Sibling rivalry can present a challenge, especially for aspiring professional athletes. But for amateurs Yu-Chiang and Yu-Sang Hou, that’s a thought that has never even crossed their minds. The Hous are both in the field at LPGA Q-Series and both have made it to week two in Dothan Ala., something that was a relief for the younger of the pair, who also goes by Vivian. While they are used to playing together — the sisters are also teammates at the University of Arizona — the pressure of earning LPGA Tour status is a whole other level of stress as they hope to have the opportunity to turn professional after this week at Highland Oaks.
“It's very fun. I would also say very stressful, especially last week,” said Yu-Chiang of the first four rounds in Mobile. “After three days, my sister was above or under that line, and then I can see her being really stressed after round three. I'm really glad that she finished strong the last day, and then we were happy that both of us got into this week and we were looking forward to finishing good and then above top 45. We kind of have an idea about that. We might just turn pro right away and then try our best to get the best status we can, try to finish as high as we can and turn pro. We'll still talk to our parents after this week.”
So far through five rounds, Yu-Chiang is the low amateur, sitting at 10-under par after rounds of 69-72-68-72 at Magnolia Grove and a 5-under 67 to open the week at Highland Oaks. Yu-Sang once again finds herself on the bubble, sitting at 4 under and T-37 after a 73 in round five. Being able to support each other through this process has been critical to both Hous’. Sometimes, it feels like the roles are reversed, with younger Yu-Chiang providing the sage advice to her older counterpart, instead of the other way around, when it comes to golf.
“It's kind of like that I'm the older sister on the golf course, but she's definitely still got everything in control off the course. I try my best to be there for her and then stay there. If she needs my help, she'll ask me. If she didn't ask me, I'll just stay quiet.”
Besides each other, the pair also have their mutual collegiate coaches’ encouragement with Laura Ianello and the Arizona staff regularly checking in with the sisters. Yu-Chiang credits their decision to play on the team this fall as one of the reasons they’ve played well enough to be here in Dothan. Through five rounds, that smart choice seems to be paying dividends as both Hous have a shot at Tour status.
“I'm glad that both me and my sister decided to stay this fall and practice and play tournaments with my team and keep the competitive feeling and practice as much as we can and get into Stage II and also the final stage,” said Yu-Chiang. “And our coaches help us a lot too. They call and they text every day with us. I'm really glad that I have my sister and my team, my coaches with me, and of course my parents, too. But I'm just really happy about my performance these five rounds and am looking forward to the rest of the three days.”