With internships for college students harder to come by this summer, Duke golfer Courtney Ellenbogen is certainly taking advantage of her work experience as a participant in this week’s 2010 Women’s U.S. Open.
Ellenbogen, along with three former Duke players, tees-off on Thursday at the 65th United States championship at Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh, Pa. The rising sophomore was named an alternate after posting a two-round qualifying score of 145 at Carolina Trace Country Club in Sanford, though received entrance into the main draw.
“It’s a chance to see what it’s like,” she said on Tuesday, “try to learn a few things. Hopefully to get out here [as a professional] one day.”
Ellenbogen, from Blacksburg, Va., arrived on Sunday and has since played two practice rounds on the par-71, 6,598-yard course. Though this is her third consecutive time playing in the Women’s U.S. Open, Ellenbogen has yet to soak in all there is to know about competing in major tournaments. She’s staring wide-eyed at the opportunity, where the top 23 players on the Rolex Rankings list are expected to thrill the galleries on the rolling course, including No. 1 Cristie Kerr, a front runner to hoist the winner’s trophy after her triumph at the LPGA Championship last month.
This year’s course is certainly longer than the last time Oakmont hosted the U.S. Women’s Open in 1992, where Patty Sheehand defeated Juli Inkster in a playoff.
Ellenbogen, who slowly improved as a freshman and ended the year with a team-best 18th place finish at the NCAA Championship, joins former Duke golfers Amanda Blumenherst, Liz Janangelo and Brittany Lang.
Blumenherst, a three-time national player of the year, arrived on tour in 2009 after graduating from Duke. In her first season on the LPGA Tour, she is ranked second on the Rolex Rookie of the year rankings list and 82nd overall. In 10 starts, she has a 72.21 stroke average and has earned $100,577.
In May, Blumenherst tied for seventh at the Tres Marias Championship in Morella, Michoacan, Mexico. Two weeks later, she posted her second top-10 finish in the Sybase Match Play Championship in Gladstone, N.J.
Those finishes, combined with her December win at Q-school to earn full-time status on the LPGA Tour, were sure signs that her career has started on the right path. But for certain, the goal is to compete well in a major championship. This will be her first U.S. Open as a professional and fourth overall.
As sophomore she finished tied for 10th place.
“I’d loved to win any tournament right now,” Blumenherst said in a radio interview on the LPGA Web site. “But definitely a major. All of the majors are my top goal. I wouldn’t feel if I played my entire golf career and I never won a major, I always feel like I was just a little short of what I really wanted to achieve.”
North Carolina golfer Meaghan Francella, who graduated in 2004, is also part of the 156-person field. She is ranked 76th on the Rolex Rankings list. Wake Forest former standout Laura Diaz, who finished tied for seventh in 2002, made the field as well.
As for Lang, an All-American at Duke, this will be her sixth U.S. Open. She finished tied for second in 2005 as an amateur, though has not faired as well in the tournament since.
Duke players have often played well as amateurs in the U.S. Open, something that gives Ellenbogen comfort as she looks to make the cut for the first time. She’s also been striking the ball with a crispness that she found at the end of her freshman campaign.
Still, she’ll walk into the tee box bubbling with nervous energy.
“I’d be more worried if I wasn’t nervous,” she said. “Nerves come with the territory.”