Minnesota Golf Association

Uehara and Dreher Qualify For U.S. Women's Open

May 29, 2013

By Nick Hunter

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. – The road to the U.S. Women’s Open, for the majority, is a long, grinding and arduous task. First, one needs to advance through a local qualifier, which could be a several-hour car ride for some. The second task following the local qualifier is a sectional qualifier, which could easily be a thousand miles away from home.

Only a small number will be able to push past those obstacles and earn a trip to the U.S. Women’s Open. For Ayako Uehara, that road was even tougher than most to overcome. Hailing from Okinawa, Japan, Uehara had a 22-hour plane ride (just over 6,900 miles) and arrived Friday to prepare for her 2013 U.S. Women’s Open Sectional Qualifier at the Minneapolis Golf Club Tuesday.

“She got in five days ago, and we were able to play (Minneapolis Golf Club) and Braemar Golf Course,” said her caddy Chris Brannan who made the trip from Scottsdale, Ariz., just to caddy for Uehara Tuesday.

Uehara, posted a 36-hole total of 146 to earn medalist honors and clinch a spot in the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. In the first round, Uehara posted a four-over par 76 and knew work had to be done to get back into contention.

“The first round I missed some putts – the greens were pretty tough. I wanted to stay patient but my goal for the second round was four-under,” she said. “It was very tough to play two rounds in one day, I got tired but I drove the ball well and I’m very excited to be playing in the U.S. Open.”

Uehara’s afternoon started better than her morning as she finished her front nine 1-under par. She would bogey the first hole on the back nine before back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes. From there Uehara cruised and held on for a one-stroke victory with a par on each of the final six holes.

Brannan, formerly of Milaca, Minn., said Uehara is one of the best female golfers he’s ever caddied for. “I was told she was a good golfer but I had no idea she was going to be this good. She was incredibly straight off the tee and she couldn’t have missed more than a couple fairways in two rounds which was really impressive,” he added.

Kirby Dreher, a native of British Columbia, punched her ticket to this year’s U.S. Women’s Open as she claimed the second and final qualifying spot finishing with a two-round total of 147. Dreher opened Tuesday’s action with a 2-over par 74 in the morning session.

“I felt like I played decent during the first round and ended up being tied for second after the first round. After a bad hole I just wanted to stick to my routine and I told myself there was a lot of golf still to be played. I knew if I posted a strong second round that I would have a good shot,” she said.

Dreher didn’t start her final round as well as she hoped as she found herself 2-over par after her front nine. But a birdie on the 14th hole and another on the 17th dropped her back to even. She would bogey her final hole and finish her day 3-over par.

“I told myself to just par 18 and I would be good, but I ended up bogeying. I was nervous a bit and sort of talked myself into the bogey but ended up being okay,” she said. “You never know what can happen in tournaments like this. This golf course was really tough today; you had to hit the fairway and make putts, and that’s what I was able to do.

Dreher finished as first alternate in 2010 and ended up getting in the tournament at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa., but missed the cut. She finished as first alternate again the following year and yet again in 2012. “This is my fourth time trying out and I’ve been an alternate three times in a row and now this time I’m in. It feels awesome – I feel like it’s my time.”

Lauren Mielbrecht, Gulf Stream, Fla., finished 5-over par (149) and will be the first alternate while Jennifer Ha of Calgary, Alberta finished 6-over par (150) and will be the second alternate. Ha also finished as low amateur.

Did not qualify:
T5. Emily Kvidera (a), Ramsey, Minn., 76-76 (152)
T11. Anna Laorr (a), Eden Prairie, Minn., 79-75 (154)
T13. McKenzie (a), New Prague, Minn., 77-78 (155)
T16. Rachael Schmidt (p), Elk River, Minn., 80-77 (157)
T21. Sarah Burnham (a), Maple Grove, Minn., 81-79 (160)
  23. Banchalee Theinthong (a), Minneapolis, 82-80 (162)
T29. Cassandra Deeg (a), Hugo, Minn., 87-79 (166)
T32. Angela Ause (p), St. Paul, Minn., 86-82 (168)
T32. Maggie Heggerston (a), Pequot Lakes, Minn., 81-87 (168)
  34. Breanna Lervick (a), Chanhassen, Minn., 88-81 (169)
T36. Tayler Hoag (a), Eden Prairie, Minn., 86-86 (172)
  38. Sierra Langlie (a), Andover, Minn., 91-83 (174)
  39. Hailey Boner (a), Stillwater, Minn., 88-87(175)

Complete tournament results may be found here. 

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