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Grier set for national test

June 14, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

From swinging a golf club in the back yard when "it was something to do," Smithsburg's Ashley Grier has elevated her game to the point of qualifying for a United States Golf Association event.

Having just completed her freshman year at Jacksonville University, Grier will participate in the USGA's 27th U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links championship Tuesday and Wednesday in Palm Coast, Fla.

She'll be one of 144 golfers playing two days of stroke play at the 6,068-yard par-72 Ocean Hammock Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus designed course which he labeled the "Pebble Beach of the East." The field will then be narrowed to 64 for four days of match play.

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Grier's first round will start Tuesday with an 8:30 a.m. tee time alongside partners Kate Ackerson of Allen, Texas, and Christine Anast of Littleton, Colo. The trio will return Wednesday for a 1:10 p.m. start.

Included in the field is 13-year old sensation Michele Wie of Honolulu, who will play in a Nationwide Tour event later this year.

Already in a golf family with her father, Dave, owning Yingling's Golf Center, Grier meddled around with the sticks as a young child.

"I just took some clubs and hit around in the yard," Grier said. "Then my dad started working with me and I started to take it up on my own."

With plenty of practice time, Grier's competitive road reached a scholastic high when she won the Maryland girls state championship in 2000. After graduation she convened her college career at Jacksonville, where she was the Freshman of the Year in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

"When I got good in high school I planned on playing golf in college, hopefully at Division I, and I have been able to do that," Grier said.

Grier qualified for the Women's Amateur by winning the sectional at Twin Lakes Golf Club in Clifton, Va., with a 3-over 75.

"I concentrated on college golf, but after I got back home I decided to do the qualifier," Grier said.

Grier, who lists her short game chipping and putting as her strengths, leaves Sunday for Florida to get in some practice time. She'll be accompanied by her mom, Judy, while her father tends to a junior golf camp.

Grier said Ocean Hammock has about eight holes surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and has lots of bunkers.

"I'm just going there looking at each day and getting through stroke play," Grier said.

She has entered the North-South Amateur at Pinehurst Golf Club in Pinehurst, N.C., which is slated to begin June 23 on the famed No. 2 and 8 courses. If she makes it to the finals in Florida, she'll probably skip the North Carolina trip. She noted, however, the field at Pinehurst might be tougher than the Public Links.

Beyond that, she plans on making a qualifying attempt in mid-July at Bethesda Country Club for a spot in the USGA Women's Amateur, which will be held later this summer in Philadelphia.

"I just want to keep improving to get to the next level and hopefully professional," Grier said. "If not, I'd like to work at a golf resort."

Right now, she'd like to resort to a winning effort in Florida.

Editor's note: Results of the Women's Amateur Public Links Championship can be found on the USGA Web site at USGA.org.

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