There is no data to support the improvement girls golfer Erica Shepherd has made this summer.
It is, after all, impossible to put a number on maturity.
Shepherd, who is about to start her sophomore year at Center Grove High School, has maintained her customary hectic tournament schedule. From the time the 2015-16 school year ended through August she will have played events in 10 different states.
“I think a lot of people around the country found out who Erica is,” said University of Indianapolis women’s and men’s golf coach Brent Nicoson, who has been Shepherd’s coach since she was 8. “She has done a great job of representing Center Grove and her family at all these events.
“Everyone likes her. She’s matured a lot outside of golf this summer.”
Only 15, Shepherd was among the youngest competitors at the U.S. Women’s Open from July 7 to 10 at CordeValley Golf Club in San Martin, California.
Shepherd struggled the first day with an 82 but rebounded nicely in Round 2 with a 75. She missed the cut by nine strokes but managed to finish ahead of 17 other golfers.
“It was really fun to learn from the pro players in my practice rounds,” said Shepherd, who at various points paired up for pre-Open practices with Bailey Tardy, Christie Kerr (who tied for eighth), Lizette Salas (tied for 26th) and 1998 U.S. Women’s Open champion Se Ri Pak.
“In the first round I was a little nervous during the first five holes of play.”
Shepherd followed her U.S. Open experience by making it to the Round of 32 (of 156 entries) at the U.S. Girls Amateur Tournament at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey.
She defeated Californian Yealimi Noh, 4 and 2, in the Round of 64. Despite carding a 35-37—72 the next day, Shepherd fell short against Ya Chun Chang in 19 holes.
Shepherd is presently in London, Kentucky, taking part in the AJGA City of London Junior Championship,
Then it’s off to events in Rhode Island, Michigan and South Carolina.
“I wish I could be home a little bit more, but it’s been fun,” Shepherd said.
Playing closer to home won’t be an issue on Sept. 7.
Shepherd along with Center Grove junior boys player Sam Jean, are among those taking part in the Gardner Heidrick Pro-Am event the day before the start of the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick in Carmel.
The two Center Grove golfers are part of the same foursome as Tony Pancake, the Director of Club and Golf Operation at Crooked Stick since 2003.
Nicoson, who caddied for Shepherd at the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Girls Amateur, admits things might be going ahead of script. At the same time, it’s made for one memorable summer for Shepherd and those closest to her.
“The U.S. Open changed everything,” Nicoson said. “This is a level we didn’t know Erica would get to this quick. None of us did. It’s definitely been a special summer for her. She gained a ton of experience, and that’s invaluable for Erica moving forward.”
Currently playing in the AJGA City of London Junior Championship in London, Kentucky, here’s what awaits Erica Shepherd:
Aug. 9 to 12: Junior PGA Championship, Wannamoisett Country Club, Rumford, Rhode Island
Aug. 15 to 18: AJGA Randy Wise Open, Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, Grand Blanc, Michigan
Sept. 2 to 5: AJGA Girls Championship, The Furman Golf Club, Greenville, South Carolina
Sept. 7: BMW Pro-Am, Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel