INNER GROVE HEIGHTS — Isabella McCauley, a 17-year-old golfer for Simley High School, is currently preparing for the biggest tournament of her golfing career.
McCauley, granddaughter of New Ulm natives Steve and Bev Soukup, finished with a two-day total of 143 at Somerset Country Club in Mendota Heights on May 3. That 1-under par earned her one of two qualifying spots for the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, which begins June 3 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California.
During the qualifier, which is one of 23 qualifiers played around the country, McCauley finished second behind Wayzata’s Sarah Burnham out of 36 players.
After her strong performance in Mendota Heights, McCauley became one of 156 golfers to advance to the 76th U.S. Women’s Open.
“On Hole 12 of the second round, I holed out for eagle from 52 yards,” McCauley said. “There were about 20-30 people watching or so, and they all went crazy. And that was just kind of an adrenaline boost there. That was really cool, and I kind of just realized that, ‘Hey, maybe I can qualify. Let’s see how this goes.’ Then I bogeyed the next hole, but then proceeded to make birdies on 15 and 17 and then a really good par save on 18, which I was pretty sure was to qualify. So I played the last seven holes 3-under and needed that to qualify, so that was really cool.”
McCauley wanted to try to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open last year, but COVID-19 shut those hopes down. She was able to win the Minnesota State Junior Girls’ Championship last summer, however.
With things beginning to open up again this year, McCauley’s goal of competing in the U.S. Women’s Open came to fruition.
McCauley’s success and love of golf started at a young age, and it started with the help of her dad, Sean, who McCauley says has been the biggest influence on her golfing career so far.
“He started my sister and I when we were 6 years old,” McCauley said. “He used to teach golf maybe 20-25 years ago. He doesn’t do it anymore, but it was really natural for him to just teach us some of the fundamentals of the game. His goal was just for us to enjoy it. He loved it so much and he wanted us to find a liking in the game as well. He’s still my golf coach, and we have a really good connection on the course and off the course. It’s really nice to have your dad as a coach and be able to help you in that. It’s really cool and I think that he’s probably been the biggest help to my golf game.”
McCauley recently was in New Ulm last weekend visiting her grandparents and was able to get in a game at the New Ulm Country Club.
“I’ve played New Ulm several times and it’s a good track,” McCauley said. “It’s just fun to be out there and play with my grandpa, it’s always good to see him.”
McCauley will now turn her attention to a much bigger stage on June 3 at The Olympic Club. This is the first time the course will host a United States Golf Association Women’s Championship.
“From everything I’ve heard, it’s a really difficult course — a lot of really thick roughs,” McCauley said. “So for me, I’m not necessarily the longest hitter off the tee, but I can be pretty accurate. So I think if I use that to my advantage, that would be the biggest key.”
McCauley added that she’s going to try to repeat her successes from the qualifier.
“Going into it, I plan on just kind of doing similar to what I did in the qualifier,” she said. “I’m hoping to do play well. Obviously, I’d like to make the cut, but ultimately just to have fun and enjoy the experience and learn a lot from it.”
There will be 18 holes played each day at the U.S. Women’s Open. If McCauley does well enough from June 3-4, she will make the cut and advance to the final two days on June 5-6.
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