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GOLF's Jessica Marksbury Plays the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur: Practice Day 1

Photo: Jessica Marksbury

Author Jessica Marksbury enjoys the festivities after her first practice round at the Women's Mid-Am.

Greetings from Choudrant, Louisiana! After weeks of anticipation (and some serious ballstriking anxiety), I've finally arrived at Squire Creek Country Club, host of the 2015 U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur Championship. The weather could not be more perfect, although it is a bit windy.

There's a lot on my mind this week, but first thing's first: how in the heck do you pronounce Choudrant? I found out right away. Turns out "SHOO-drent," which is a far cry from the several variations I had in my head. Good to know! Anyway, it's my first time playing in a national championship, and the experience so far really could not be better. Here's a recap of what Practice Day 1 was like:

Squire Creek Country Club is a private facility, about 45 minutes west of the Monroe regional airport. The club itself is gorgeous -- a Tom Fazio design that opened in 2002. The first step in the process is registration, which involves several stops around a rectangular room. You receive an information packet, record the correct pronunciation of your name, take a headshot, sign flags and the official participant record, and acknowledge pace of play guidelines -- pretty cool! You also receive information on dining throughout the week and register your caddie.

Photo:

The author signing the official participant record on Thursday.

Speaking of my caddie, I could not be more thrilled to have my husband, Paul, on the bag for me this week. He's a teaching professional at the Tam O'Shanter Club near our home on Long Island, and I'm convinced his superb green-reading skills and Zen-like calming influence will give me a significant competitive edge. (Fingers crossed!)

After the registration process, we had about 45 minutes before our practice round tee time. I had decided in advance that I only wanted to play nine holes on each practice day. So, it was off the range to warm up.

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The range is where the "national championship" feel really ramps up. The practice balls are ProV1s and you get to hit at a station with your name on it. Super cool! After about 20 minutes I was ready to move on to bunkers, chipping and putting. The practice facility here is fabulously comprehensive, and the putting green is huge.

Photo:

Marksbury warms up on the range at Squire Creek Country Club.

I reported to the 10th hole for my 2:10 p.m. tee time and got my first look at the course. Wow. It's gonna be a tough test. 6,061 yards with a rating of 75.8/141. The greens are firm and fast with lots of false fronts and roll-offs, which will be an exceptional challenge for me since, as a shorter hitter off the tee, I'll be coming into the greens with a lot of longer clubs. Short game will be key, so that's what Paul and I decide to focus on.

On the 15th tee, surprise! Who decides to come by and say hello, but Hall of Famer NANCY LOPEZ! She hung around all day greeting players, taking pictures and shaking hands. Legend! After the round, my group continued to play the front nine but I headed back to the range for some additional practice (followed by a much-needed beer in the clubhouse).

Photo:

The author (right) with her husband and caddie Paul and Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez.

We hung around for the official welcome party, which was a true southern feast: shrimp, grits, fried alligator (!), meat pies, beignets, you name it. Spectacular. Nancy came back as the night's featured speaker and she shared some inspiring words from her father: "If you want to play well, play happy." Consider it done, Nancy! One more day of practice tomorrow and the real deal begins on Saturday! I'll keep you posted!

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