In Sam Jean’s perfect world, his next tour of Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel is going to be spent watching and learning from Jordan Spieth.
It’s a sentiment shared by Erica Shepherd.
Jean, who in June helped lead Center Grove to a third-place finish at the IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals, is playing in the Gardner-Heidrick Pro-Am event Sept. 7 — the day before Round 1 of the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick.
In his group will be Shepherd, a Center Grove sophomore who in July competed at the U.S. Women’s Open as a 15-year-old at CordeValley Golf Club in San Martin, California.
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Both were invited by Crooked Stick head golf professional Tony Pancake after winning their respective state junior championships — Jean at Kampen Golf Course at Purdue University and Shepherd at Twin Lakes Golf Club in Carmel.
Carmel High School golfer Jeff Doty also is scheduled to be a part of the quartet.
Each of the 52 foursomes will include a professional golfer, though Jean and Shepherd have yet to find out who will be making the walk of Crooked Stick’s well-manicured layout along with them.
Each group’s so-called mystery pro won’t be revealed until a Pro-Am Pairings Party at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the evening of Sept. 6.
Jean hopes for either Spieth or Phil Mickelson; Shepherd’s first choice is Spieth with Australian Jason Day, the defending BMW Championship titlist, running a close second.
“I think it will be a little nerve-racking, especially off the first tee,” said Jean, a junior at Center Grove. “I’ll probably be nervous the first couple of holes, and then I should be OK.”
On Saturday, Jean and Trojans teammate Noah Gillard paired to play against Shepherd and her brother, Ethan (also a member of the Center Grove boys team), at Crooked Stick.
The siblings dominated the best ball competition, winning 6 and 5.
“Oh, yeah. We got killed,” said Jean with a laugh. “But the layout and the condition of the course are just amazing. I’m looking forward to playing it again.”
The Pro-Am makes for a nice change of pace for Erica Shepherd, whose hectic summer schedule had her playing events in 10 different states.
Even as one of the youngest players in the U.S. Open she managed to place higher than 17 of her competitors.
Other highlights included making the Round of 32 at the U.S. Girls Amateur Tournament at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey, and a three-round score of 212 (70-71-71) in the AJGA City of London (Kentucky) Junior Championship.
Earlier this month, Shepherd tied for 17th at the Junior PGA Championship in Rhode Island.
“It’s been fun, but it’s good to be home and back in the routine of being back at school,” Shepherd said. “I didn’t get to see anyone all summer because I was gone so much.
“I’m definitely going up there and having fun. For me, having fun is playing good.”
Her coach, University of Indianapolis men’s and women’s golf coach Brent Nicoson, knows this about Shepherd but believes the experience will be unforgettable for everyone involved.
“The experience of playing with one of the top 70 players in the world is pretty invaluable to a kid that age,” Nicoson said. “It’s pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I want Erica to have fun and enjoy it. Don’t get caught up in results.”
With a laugh, he adds, “But I know how she’s wired. She’ll want to go up there and win it.”