After a five-year hiatus, Clearwater's Jenny Gleason is once again playing in the U.S. Women's Open. Gleason, 29, endured a grueling 36-hole sectional qualifier Monday at The Oaks Club in Osprey to earn a spot in the field.
She shot 72-72–144 to tie for third. The top five in the 73-player field earned a spot in the Open, which is July 8-11 at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club.
"I'm going to Oakmont,'' Gleason said. "It was hot as could be out there and the wind changed in the afternoon, so it was difficult conditions. I didn't know if it was going to be good enough, but as it turned out I got in there by two shots.''
Gleason last played in the U.S. Women's Open in 2004, when she failed to make the cut. Since then she has spent most of her time on the Futures Tour. Gleason won twice on the Futures Tour in 2005, but has been unable to obtain full exempt status on the LPGA Tour.
Instead of getting discouraged, Gleason decided last fall to work even harder. She got a new swing coach, Nick Frontero of Orlando, on the recommendation of former Clearwater High teammate Ryan Gildersleeve. She also got a new strength coach, Christie DeNovellis of Tampa.
Gleason's goal was to become stronger and longer off the tee. She said she saw results early in the 2010 season.
"I kind of came to the crossroads last fall,'' Gleason said. "I had to do something. I had to get stronger; my game needed to change. I could not keep hitting it right to left. I had to straighten out a little and work the ball better. I had to change the whole package.
"I'm very happy with the results I'm getting now. I'm not under average anymore. I'm about 240-250 off the tee now; that's more than enough. I'm just trying to make more solid contact.''
Gleason has played a full schedule on the Futures Tour this year, with a best finish of sixth in Winter Haven in March. She doesn't plan on slowing down before the U.S. Women's Open. She will take off this week before playing three straight weeks in Iowa, Ohio and Illinois. She also plans on playing a Futures event in Kentucky the week before the U.S. Women's Open.
"I was going to play 13 or 14 weeks in a row,'' Gleason said. "This old body can't handle that anymore. There's no one on the planet who can play that much.''
Another benefit of making the U.S. Women's Open field is she will get to play in a tournament with best friends and LPGA members Brittany Lincicome, Angela Stanford and Kristy McPherson. The foursome play together regularly when their schedules allow, and Lincicome and Gleason were roommates for a while in Lincicome's St. Petersburg condo.
"To qualify and be able to hang out with them at a major is going to be very fun,'' Gleason said. "It'll be a great week.''
A few other local players failed to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open. Palm Harbor's Dakoda Dowd finished 25th after shooting 71-81–152. Seminole's Danielle Jackson shot 82-82–164, and St. Petersburg's Amber Pederson shot 84-80–164.
The County Golf Association held a tournament on May 24 at Countryside Country Club. The regular division gross team winners were Steve Bennett and Wayne Mateer, who shot 70. The senior division gross winners were John King and Bobby Kilgore, who shot 64. The overall net winners were Walt Stanley and Bill Johnson and Gerry Zebley and Tony Weigandt, who shot 60s.
• The West Coast Women's golf league held a tournament at El Conquistador in Bradenton on May 24. The Flight AA gross winner was Jeanne Roth, who shot 83. The AA net winner was Vicky Stafford, who shot 77. The Flight A winner was Debbie Reese, who shot 80.
• Largo Golf Course held its biweekly tournament on May 22. The scramble, which is open to the public, had a total of five teams (20 players). The team of Tom Stacy (St. Petersburg), Larry Bates (St. Petersburg), Al Spyies (Clearwater) and Bill Hackney (Clearwater) won the event with a score of 50 (12 under par).
The McMullen Tennis Center's 4.0 men's team played in the sectional 4.0 senior championships on May 21-23 in Daytona Beach. The team went undefeated in its flight before losing in the semifinals. The team was captained by Wendall Walker of Shipwatch.
• On May 23, Ricky Symanski won the boys 18 Head Penn Super Series at Eagle Harbor Tennis Club in Jacksonville. Symanski won the final match over Max Peara 6-3, 6-3.