MILLER — Less than a month after winning her second Class B State Girls’ Golf Tournament title, Jayce Pugh of Miller found herself swinging the links at one of the most famed golf courses in the country.
Pugh, who will be a freshman during the 2022-23 school year for the Rustlers, received an invite to play in the 2022 Girls’ High School Golf National Invitational, which was held June 27-29 at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C.
The invitational-only event has grown in recent years to include 500 of the top high school golfers from nearly all 50 states.
“First when I got asked to compete in Pinehurst I said no because I didn’t think I was ready for a place like Pinehurst. When everyone found out I said no, they thought I was crazy for not taking the opportunity,” Pugh said.
“So I decided to do it as a learning experience and to just go have fun and enjoy the game. It could be a once in a lifetime experience.”
Golfers were afforded three days for practice rounds at the facility that has hosted the U.S. Open three times and is slated to host the event again in 2024. In addition to the U.S. Open (1999, 2005, 2014), Pinehurst has hosted the U.S. Women’s Open (2014), U.S. Senior Open (1994), The TOUR Championship (1991, 1992), Ryder Cup matches (1951) and PGA Championships (1936).
Pugh says the practice rounds were very beneficial for her and helped her to settle into the environment.
“After the three days of practice on the different courses, I kind of knew my way around,” she said. “I was familiar with the courses. They weren’t too difficult to figure out.”
The three-day, 54-hole invitational included a stroke-play format, and was played on courses No. 1, 6 and 9.
“The most challenging part was switching types of grass. Course 9 was Bent grass and courses 1 and 6 were Bermuda grass,” Pugh said. “Every sand bunker was different, some didn’t have very much sand in them.”
Pugh figured out how to shape her game to the different circumstances thrown at her during the invitational and believes that could pay some big dividends throughout her high school golfing career.
“I feel this experience will help me in facing different challenges along the way and changing feel for a different atmosphere,” she said. “Neither one of the three courses were the same at Pinehurst. They all had their own challenges and I learned to adapt quickly.”
Pugh set a lofty goal of finishing in the top 100 during the invitational. She came up just shy of accomplishing that feat, finishing in spot No. 132.
“Even though I didn’t reach it, I still felt honored to finish 132nd I played against a field of girls with a lot more experience and ones who’ve had a lot more opportunity to play in prior events like this one.”
Highlighting Pugh’s effort in the tournament was a strong showing on the No. 9 course, which measures 5,801 yards and has a course rating of 73.1.
“My favorite part of the event was parring the highest handicapped No. 9 out of the three courses,” she said.
During her down time, Pugh said she spent the day with her family shopping in the pro shops.
“We also walked the village and saw all the neat stores along the way,” she said.
While the high school girls’ golf season isn’t until the spring, Pugh will continue to hone her skills at various events throughout the state this summer.