Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 32
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

DRIVING FORCE: Kelly Shon prepares for a drive this spring in her freshman season with the Princeton University women’s golf team. Shon, who earned first-team All-Ivy League honors in her debut campaign, is currently playing in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Rhode Island Country Club, Barrington, R.I.

PU Women’s Golfer Shon at U.S. Amateur, Looking to Cap Eventful Summer in Style

Bill Alden

When Kelly Shon made the Schreiber High (N.Y.) boys’ golf team as an eighth grader, her presence drew some snickers from opposing squads.

“It was kind of a joke at first,” said Shon, who started playing the game at age 12 tagging along at the golf course with her mother. “All the other teams were surprised to see an 8th grade girl on the boys’ team.”

Shon’s foes weren’t laughing for long as she turned out to be a formidable competitor, helping Schreiber to three straight conference titles and placing second in the Nassau County boys’ tournament in 2010.

“It was fun and challenging,” said Shon a resident of Port Washington, N.Y., reflecting on her time with the boys’ squad.

“There was no other option for me because we didn’t have a girls’ team. My teammates were really supportive. I am happy it happened that way; it helped me improve quicker.”

Shon’s rapid improvement over her high school years which saw her make an impact on the national scene with a win in the American Junior Golf Association’s Aldila Junior Open in 2009, resulted in her being recruited heavily by college programs.

Eschewing offers from such national golf powers as Duke and Vanderbilt, the Long Island native opted to come to Princeton University. Building on a strong summer in 2010 which saw her make the Round of 16 at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, Shon produced a superb freshman campaign in 2010-11, making first-team All-Ivy League and getting selected to play in the NCAA East Regional.

This summer, Shon started things on a high note as she qualified for the U.S. Open. After playing in the U.S. Publinks Championship in Bandon Ore., Shon headed to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. to compete in the U.S. Open. Shon held her own as she faced the cream of the women’s pro game, missing the cut by one stroke.

Currently, Shon is in Rhode Island, playing in the U.S. Women’s Amateur where she is looking to improve on last year’s finish at the event. She fired a 3-over 74 on Monday to place T54. The top 64 players after 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying will advance to match play beginning on Wednesday with the championship concluding with a scheduled 36-hole final on Sunday.

“I am more confident in my game,” asserted Shon, reflecting on the tournament which is being held at the Rhode Island Country Club, in Barrington, R.I., the home course for the Brown University golf team.

“I have a familiarity with the course. It may not be laid out like it is for the Brown Invitational but I am more familiar with it than most of the other players.”

It is Shon’s familiarity with the New York City area that helped draw her to Princeton.

“I narrowed it down to Duke, Vanderbilt, Yale, and Princeton,” said Shon. “I think my official visit to Princeton blew the others away. I bonded with the players and I fell in love with the campus. I live in New York so I am close to home and can go there on the weekends.”

Upon arriving at Princeton, Shon did have to make some adjustments in terms of juggling her golf with her studies

“It was tough, my practice time had to be controlled,” said Shon. “In high school, I would drive to practice and then stay after for hours. At Princeton, the class schedule is different.”

While Shon’s game wasn’t as sharp as she would like in her freshman season, she has gotten into the rhythm of college life.

“I was not happy with the way I was hitting the ball,” said Shon, who started her Tiger career with a bang, taking second in the Princeton Invitational last October.

“I did get used to the limited practice time and I was using time more efficiently.”

Unfortunately, Shon didn’t have the best time in the East Regional at the LPGA International’s Legends Course in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“The East Regional was bad timing, I had a lot going on,” recalled Shon, who shot +11 at the three-round event to finish T52.

“I was doing exams between rounds. It was good to see some of my friends from the powerhouse schools.”

Shon played some really good golf at the U.S. Open qualifying tournament in Medina, Minn.

“That was probably the highlight of my summer,” said Shon, who shot a 2-under 142 to place in the top two with her mother caddying her bag.

“My mom was on my bag; she had caddied once or twice for me. She is always with me, whether she is on my bag or not.”

For Shon, things didn’t go quite as well at the U.S. Open in early July as she shot an 8-over 150 to miss the cut by one stroke in a tournament stalled by frequent thunderstorms coming out of the Rocky Mountains.

“It was kind of frustrating; it was tough to go out and play and then go back in,” said Shon. “I was never able to get into a rhythm, physically or emotionally.”

The experience, however, gave Shon confidence about her future prospects.

“Even though I didn’t play well, it was encouraging,” maintained Shon, who played practice rounds with such LPGA stars as Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie during U.S. Open week.

“I knew I could have played better and I saw I could compete with those girls. It is fun playing against the best players in the world and playing in front of such big crowds. That’s what pro sports is about.”

While Shon’s main focus is playing better in her sophomore season at Princeton, her ultimate goal is to play at the pro level.

“I want to improve from last year and maintain my game from fall to spring,” said Shon. “I would like to play professionally; it has always been a dream of mine.”

In view of how far Shon has come since eighth grade, nobody is laughing at her chances of making that dream come true.

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