Jay Marie Green‘s rookie year on the LPGA Tour didn’t live up to her expectations. She’d blasted her way through 2014 Q-School 10 shots clear of the competition. She was bringing her 2011 Junior Solheim Cup team experience, her 2011 win at the South Atlantic Amateur Championship (SALLY) and, playing as an amateur, a runner-up finish at the Symetra Tour’s 2011 Daytona Beach invitational to her rookie year. Who needs college? It was time for Jaye Marie Green to set the world on fire!
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Nothing about last year – her rookie season – was seamless for the 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.
Twenty- two events and 11 made cuts later, as Green was closing out her rookie year things looked a bit different, not quite so rosy; and things didn’t seem to get any batter, at least not at the beginning of her second year on the Tour. At the mid-point of the 2015 season, her 2nd year on the Tour, she’d entered 14 events, played the weekend 5 times, still no top-10s. Jaye Marie Green was in what she’s described as “a really deep little hole.”
So much of success on the golf course is a matter of luck — a putt that lips in and drops instead of lipping out, a missed shot that ricochets off a tree branch and squeezes another 20 yards of semi-forward flight and lands back in the middle of the fairway instead of hitting the tree branch, taking a wild left turn while still air-born, and disappearing OB.
As her brother, Matt, reminded her, the challenge — for Jaye Marie Green and for all of us who swing the sticks — is to stay positive and wait for the breaks.
Jaye Marie believes her break came in the form of a Monday morning phone call from the USGA. No matter how unlikely it seemed, the second alternate suddenly had a tee time at the US Women’s Open “and it’s gone my way ever since . . . big brother’s always right.”
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She finished T26 at Lancaster and collected a check for $34,363, which is nice pay for four day’s work but in and of itself isn’t career changing or life changing. For Green, that week in Lancaster has had a snowball effect that has nothing to do with money, at least not directly.
Jaye Marie followed up her unexpected opportunity to play in the US Women’s Open with an even better finish — a tie for 18th the following week at the Marathon Classic — and that, in turn, got her a spot in the RICOH Women’s British Open.
Her back-to-back paychecks 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 make a big difference in what fields she’s able to get into for the remainder of this year and next.
Green explained how just a little break — that unlikely phone call from the USGA — transformed her thinking and her outlook which, in turn, transformed what’s in her bank account.
"“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 recalled. “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.”"
Good fortune continued Thursday when she posted her best round of the year – a first-round 6-under-par 65 – that put her just one shot out of the lead at the Meijer LPGA Classic Presented by Kraft. She followed that with a second round 69 which has her sharing 4th place going into the weekend. As she’d hoped, her surge of confidence has continued to snowball.
The change in attitude that’s come since the US Women’s Open has 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. She’s been working with her irons and her flat stick, sharpening up her approaches, getting her shots closer to the cup, aiming for more up-and-downs.
Her stats are still a little soft around the edges. She needs to get those putts per round down below 30 and she needs to get a little more control off the tee.
Jaye Marie Green, Meijer LPGA Classic, 1st & 2nd round stats
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.
Let’s see how she handles the weekend in Grand Rapids. She’s teeing off Saturday at 12:35pm and is paired with rookie Wei-Ling Hsu, who’s also having a very good week at the Meijer. It’s her final chance to knock off the rust before she heads to Turnberry.