HOUSTON – Kaitlyn Papp first picked up a golf club, a cut-down putter, on the island of Okinawa where her dad, Tony, was stationed as a Navy Medical Service Corps officer.
“We would practice putting next to the flight line,” said Tony. “The green perched up nice and high and we could look out and watch the jets come in and come out.”
The Papps lived in Japan from 2003 to 2007. They could’ve never dreamed back then that Kaitlyn, now 22, would grow up to play alongside one of Japan’s biggest sports stars – Hinako Shibuno – in the final group at a major championship.
But there she was on Saturday at the 75th U.S. Women’s Open, holding tough in what amounted to a survival contest at muddy Cypress Creek. The Texas Longhorn had expected as much coming into the week and believes it favors her chances.
“I think so because when the conditions get tough,” said Papp, “you really have to be mentally strong and you can’t let yourself complain, no matter how bad it is.”
Only one amateur has ever won the U.S. Women’s Open, and that was Frenchwoman Catherine Lacoste in 1967. Papp trails Shibuno, the 2019 AIG Women’s British Open winner, by four strokes after a couple of late bogeys dropped her into a share of fifth.
Tony grew up playing soccer and became a place-kicker on the football team at Lenoir–Rhyne University. He picked up golf as a teenager as a way to de-stress. It was a bit of an accident, he said, that Kaitlyn wound up becoming high-level amateur player.
From Japan, the Papps moved to Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps Base near Wilmington, North Carolina. That’s where Kaitlyn received her first PGA instruction from retired sergeant major Grant Beck. She started competing in U.S. Kids events and her passion for the game grew from there. In 2010, the family moved to San Antonio.
Tony retired from the Navy after 20 years and now works as an occupational therapist at a hand therapy practice in Austin. Kaitlyn went to high school at Lake Travis with LPGA player Kristen Gillman, and holds the University of Texas school record for career stroke average at 71.91. She was the Big 12 Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year in 2018 and wrapped up a degree in Physical Culture & Sports in 3 ½ years. On Friday night, Papp turned in her final term paper. She missed the deadline and attached a note of apology.
Earlier this week, Papp found out that she’d been accepted into grad school at Texas for the sports management program.
Texas associate head coach Kate Golden, an LPGA winner who competed on the tour for nearly 20 years, is on Papp’s bag this week preaching patience. Papp’s boyfriend, Jake Budde, sister Katherine and parents (Tony and Julie) round out her onsite crew at Champions Golf Club.
Team Papp. (Mom, dad, sister, boyfriend and coach) Special week for the Texas crew at Champions. pic.twitter.com/8k8rXML7FC
— Beth Ann Nichols (@GolfweekNichols) December 12, 2020
Papp downplayed any pressure she might have felt on the weekend of a major, noting the amount of support she felt from the houses along the golf course, given that there’s no general admission this week.
“I definitely felt kind of a hometown crowd,” said Papp. “There’s a lot of Longhorns in the houses. Everyone is in their backyards watching, and I had my family out, so I didn’t really feel pressure. It just kind of felt like home.”
Top Amateur Finishes in U.S. Women’s Open History
|1||Catherine Lacoste (1967)|
|2||Betsy Rawls (1950)|
|2||Barbara McIntire (1956)|
|2||Jenny Chuasiriporn (1998)|
|2||Hye-Jin Choi (2017)|
|T-2||Nancy Lopez (1975)|
|T-2||Polly Riley (1947)|
|T-2||Morgan Pressel (2005)|
|T-2||Brittany Lang (2005)|
|T-2||Sally Sessions (1947)|
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/12/texas-longhorns-amateur-kaitlyn-papp-us-womens-open/