A win at the U.S. Women’s Open this week for Marina Alex, which also would happen be her first career LPGA victory, would be a remarkable, career and life-altering achievement.
Doing it at Trump National in Bedminster, N.J., which sits just 40 miles west of where she grew up in Wayne?
That would not only add to the degree of difficulty of an already daunting task, but it would turn this into the most memorable week of her golfing life and become almost impossible to top — regardless of where she takes her promising career.
The 26-year-old Alex went to Wayne Hills High, played her youth golf at North Jersey County Club and her college golf at Vanderbilt, and is in a position she’s always dreamed about — and more.
To win a U.S. Women’s Open anywhere is a dream come true. Having a chance to do it in her backyard is possible after Alex put herself in position to make a legitimate run at hoisting the hardware come Sunday evening.
Battling the wrong side of the draw based on the poor weather that halted first-round play Thursday, forcing a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call so she could complete it early Friday morning, Alex followed her opening-round 71 with a 2-under 70 in the second round to stand at 3-under, five shots off the lead held by Shanshan Feng.
This is Alex’s fourth U.S. Open. In the previous three, she missed the cut twice and finished tied for 20th in 2015.
“Just to be in position obviously it’s incredible because it’s here in New Jersey, but to contend in a U.S. Open regardless of where the location is, is unbelievable,’’ Alex said. “I’m really happy with where I put myself the last two days. Regardless of what happens, the first two days I put together I’m really pleased with.’’
Alex, who takes pride in being a “Jersey girl,’’ is serious about representing her often-maligned state. Yet she said she has had a hard time doing that.
“I seem to struggle when I’ve gone to Atlantic City [for the annual Shoprite Classic] to play,’’ she said. “Not that that’s terribly close to home and maybe it’s just the golf course doesn’t suit me eye. [But] I put so much pressure on myself to play well in the state of New Jersey because I want to represent you guys all so well. I’m really happy to have the showing that I’ve had these past two days.
“It’s great having my family here, [but] there’s always a pressure being so close to home. I really want to represent my family, myself, my state. Not many people from New Jersey are out on Tour playing professional golf. Just that in itself, there’s a lot of people backing me, which is awesome.’’
Alex said she hopes to better the strong start she had at the 2015 Open, in which she was in second place after the first round, fourth place entering the weekend and 18th entering the final round before a 71 left her in a tie for 20th.
“I put myself in … I wouldn’t say in super strong positions … but I’ve been close,’’ she said. “I’ve been there several times where I have been chasing near the leads. There are obviously players behind me that are continuing to push, and they end up winning tournaments.
“Just putting yourself in position, you start to learn more about yourself and you hopefully adapt to the negative, the positive, like all of those experiences because you are going to have both. And for me I just try and take a step back. What did I do great there? What did I not do good there? Did I get too far ahead of myself? Did I not continue to push the envelope?
“Because it is so competitive out here right now that if you don’t keep pushing, you are going to fall short. I think for me that’s something I need to continue to do. I’m learning how to do it. It’s all experience. I still consider myself relatively young in terms of my time out here. This is my fourth year on the LPGA. This is only my third U.S. Open. So I have plenty of things to learn.’’
We’ll learn a lot about where Alex is in her career the next two days, but not as much as she will learn about herself.
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