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N.J. Teen Megha Ganne Makes History as First Amateur Golfer to Share Lead in a Women’s Major

N.J. Teen Megha Ganne Makes History as First Amateur Golfer to Share Lead in a Women’s Major

  • As she heads back to the East Coast and is back to school, the 17-year-old who played her “A” game at the tournament, has a long, promising career in both the amateur and pro circuit.

With an infectious smile and maturity beyond her age, 17-year-old Megha Ganne has become an overnight sensation after her performance at the 76th US Women’s Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California. The 71st-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, has also won over a galaxy of admirers.

On the final day of the tournament on June 6, a confident Ganne had a message to her fans and her competitors. “Expect to see me back here very soon.”

On June 4, the New Jersey native became the first amateur to co-lead after the first round since Jane Park at the 2006 USWO at Newport alongside Se Ri Pak, Pat Hurst and eventual winner Annika Sorenstam. Throughout the tournament, Ganne, a high school junior from Holmdel, has shown her “A” game. She’s calm and composed — as she studies the shot and takes a swing — not losing her concentration and her nerves — and basking in the encouragement and ovation of the spectators at the same time. 

Ganne, who was at the top of the leaderboard after the early rounds on Friday. By nightfall, she had been passed by two players — Yuka Saso of the Philippines, who shot a four-under-par 67 for a 36-hole score of six under, and Lee Jeong-eun, who also shot a 67 and was five under for the tournament. She finished tied third on May 5, the third day of the tournament.

As the third day of the tournament came to a close, Ganne was seen on TV interviews, as she confidently analyzed her shots, and was proud of her game. She talked about spending additional time on the driving range prior to resuming play on the final day. But there’s other things she has to find time for, like her Calculus homework. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage to fit that into my schedule in the next few days,” she told the Associated Press. “Hopefully, my teacher gives me a little bit more time to do that. It’s hard to balance both.”

On it’s Twitter page, says: “Megha Ganne has school tomorrow, but her performance this week won’t be forgotten.”

Ganne is competing in her second U.S. Women’s Open, and is a four-time Drive, Chip and Putt National Finalist. She is known to thrive on the big stage and is no stranger to cameras. Ganne’s coach Katie Rudolph told USA Today that the young golfer actually enjoys this kind of atmosphere. All through the tournament, the teen has shown few signs of nerves. The stakes are higher. And the crowd is much bigger than her usual ones as an amateur.  “I love it so much,” Ganne said in one of her interviews. “I wish every event I had a gallery watching me because it just makes me play better, I think. And I love being in the spotlight, so it’s been really fun.”

Her parents, Hari and Sudha Ganne, told AP that their daughter remained unperturbed by the crowds. “That was the biggest gallery we’ve seen and she was unfazed by it,” her father said. Ganne’s mother told AP how her daughter has always enjoyed being on center stage ever since playing the role of the Queen of Hearts in an “Alice in Wonderland” play as a young child. Sudha Ganne is a doctor in endocrinology and Hari Ganne owns an IT business. 

It was Hari Ganne who introduced Ganne and little sister Sirina to the game. Mom shuttled young Ganne between swimming, tennis and golf. When she was 12, Ganne had to choose between swimming and golf. She chose the latter and has been playing in junior golf tournaments since early in elementary school. “We took her to this little tournament, and she was the only girl and they had tons of prizes,” mom Sudha Ganne told Golf Digest. “They gave them all to her. In my mind, that got her hooked.”

Ganne joined the First Tee program in New Jersey, and  as per Golf Digest, it was there that she formed a bond with Rudolph, who was “struck by the natural talent, tenacity and work ethic” of her student. After Ganne missed the cut at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last spring, she and Rudolph had a talk about getting the most out of a day off. Rudolph told Golf Digest that they had to rewire the way Ganne approached the entirety of an event. “Megha, when she plays her best golf, she’s unbeatable,” said Rudolph, “but how often do you get to play with your best golf? It’s not going to be there for four days. This was a prime example.” And it’s a combination of hard work and training that’s put Ganne on a road golf success and fame. 

Naturally, Ganee has many trophies and honors to her credit. She qualified for four Drive, Chip & Putt national finals at Augusta National, played in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open at the age of 15, and reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur later that summer, and in April competed in her first Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Since the start of theU.S. Open, social media is buzzing with praises for Ganne, including a shootout from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “New Jersey’s own Megha Ganne is on absolute fire at the #USWomensOpen,” Murphy tweeted on June 4. “Megha – all of New Jersey is behind you as you continue to dominate the leaderboard!

Former NJ Gov. Christine Todd Whitman also tweeted: “Congrats to New Jersey’s own Megha Ganne on leading the U.S. Women’s Open as a 17-year old amateur! We are rooting for you!”

Golf Channel anchor and reporter Rich Lerner shared a photo of Ganne with their coach and family. “Megha Ganne with coach Katie and sister Serena to her left, Dad Hari, Mom Sudha and caddie Mike to her right.  They exude so much joy and gratitude, all flowing from the star of this @uswomensopen”

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On June 4, the PGA Tour tweeted a video of an 11-year-old Ganne meeting Jordan Spieth for the first time at First Tee clinic in 2015. In the video, she is seen asking Spieth a question about how he handles pressure down the home stretch. “11-year-old Megha Ganne met @JordanSpieth at a @TheFirstTee clinic in 2015. Six years later, she’s one back at the @USWomensOpen. If he can do it, I think I can do it, too.”

But it’s highly unlikely that Ganne might’ve seen the praise she’s received, as she’s not on any social media yet. As per USA Today, “there’s the occasional TikTok video, but that’s about it.” Ganne told USA Today that she didn’t see the need for it. “I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on anything,” she said, “and of late there’s so much negative effects that I see on teenagers on social media, and it’s, one, a distraction, I think.” She agreed there are “positive effects, and there’s a lot of people who manage it really well, but it’s not something I want to try to experiment with, at least right now.”

Ganne is set to attend Stanford in the fall of 2022, “where she will join other amateur superstars Rachel Heck and Rose Zhang, who are also in the field,” as per Golf Digest. And college is one thing mom Sudha Ganne won’t compromise on -even if her daughter wins the tournament.  “Oh, that’s absolutely out of the question,” she told Golf Digest. “There’s no wavering on that. She absolutely needs to go to college.”

But for now all Ganne has to do is focus on the tournament and give it her all. And till she goes back home, she doesn’t have to worry about that Calculus homework. Her teacher, Jeniffer Pace Corboy, is giving her a break from it. She tweeted the same message. “Hi. I’m Megha Ganne’s Calculus Teacher. I’ll help a girl out 🙂 Megha, you are exempt from the project. We are all rooting for you! Good Luck.”

(The story has been updated)

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