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Grier set to tee off at U.S. Women's Open

June 28, 2007|By TIM KOELBLE

With her first shot this morning at 8:50, Hagerstown's Ashley Grier will officially become a part of U.S. Women's Open golf history.

She'll become part of the world that has competed annually for the top prize in women's golf, being held this year at the Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Resort in Southern Pines, N.C.

"This is such an awesome experience," said Grier, a 2002 Smithsburg High School graduate. "There are only 156 players in the whole country here."

Actually, 22 countries are represented in the 62nd Open, the quest having begun with local qualifiers in May from more than 1,200 entries throughout the world.

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Grier attained her position when she successfully qualified June 11 at the Village Links of Glen Ellyn in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Her week began upon arrival Sunday with her father, Dave, who will serve as caddie. She hopes the week extends past Friday's cut after two rounds.

Going against the greatest women's players in the world, Grier's chances to make the cut seem slim at Pine Needles, which will play to a par 71, covering 6,644 yards.

"My goal is to play the best I can, and to make the cut I think is a realistic goal," said Grier. "It would be so fulfilling to play on the weekend."

A few years ago, Grier never even gave a thought to competing a in worldwide tournament with such stature as the Open.

"As a (high school) junior, I wasn't competitive," she said. "I just wanted to play well to get into college."

Grier's focus changed at Jacksonville University.

"Between the first years in college, I saw that I can do this," she said.

Grier's game continued to sharpen after she transferred from Jacksonville to Central Florida. She won the Maryland Women's Open title and had a successful beginning to the women's Hooters Tour last year, before gaining her card for the Duramed FUTURES Tour this season.

Already it has been a satisfying week for her, starting with Monday's practice round when she played with Lorena Ochoa, the No. 1 player in the world.

"(Ochoa) was so friendly and nice and talked all along," said Grier.

Even more surprising has been all the fanfare.

"Everywhere you go, people are asking for your autograph, even if they don't really know who you are," said Grier.

The real test begins this morning.

"I really think playing with Lorena helped with some nerves," she said. "You see that the players on the LPGA are the same as any of us and that helps."

As is custom with many courses in North Carolina, the lightning-fast greens are crowned and Bermuda grass is predominant, with the United States Golf Association setting the intermediate rough at 1 1/4 inches and the primary rough at 3 inches.

Dave Grier walked the course, as most caddies do, to scope out the course hole-by-hole.

"I've got a big notebook," he said. "Oh my, the greens are like Pinehurst No. 2 - sloped and fast."

The rest of the Grier clan - mom Judy, sisters Andrea and Alicia, and other family friends - arrived in Southern Pines on Wednesday.

The proudest of all has to be Dave Grier.

"I really don't know how to put into words how I feel," he said. "This has been fantastic. (Ashley) has always found a way to succeed. At every level she has played, she has come through in the situations."

"I'm going to rely on Dad," said Ashley. "He's my calming influence. In the FUTURES, I'm on my own, but he's here, he knows my swing, he knows my game and I know he's going to show me the way."

What would really make it a worthwhile week at Southern Pines?

"Hopefully not coming home until Monday," she said.

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