Little Woman

By Randall MellJuly 11, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. WomenBETHLEHEM, Pa. ' Jean Reynolds looks so tiny on her journey across this giant golf course.
 
At 5-feet-2 and 112 pounds, she looks like she should be overmatched by the behemoth they call Saucon Valley Country Clubs Old Course, the second longest layout in the history of the U.S. Womens Open.
 
Shes so small, her sorority sisters at the University of Georgia called her Peanut.
 
This course is a beast that seems determined to break the hearts and wills of every challenger daring to try to conquer it, but Reynolds wont be wobbled.
 
Jean Reynolds
Jean Reynolds is looking to win the U.S. Women's Open in her second appearance. (Getty Images)
She has strong legs, her father, David, said after the third round. They have to be strong to carry a heart the size of hers.
 
Golf saw what the brute can do to the most gifted champions in Saturdays third round.
 
Lorena Ochoa, the worlds No. 1-ranked player, angrily spiked her golf ball in the turf leaving the 14th green after making double bogey.
 
Morgan Pressel flung her putter against her bag in exasperation on her way home on the back nine.
 
Paula Creamer looked shaken after chunking a pair of chip shots from the deep rough behind the 10th green, taking triple bogey and signing for a 79.
 
Though Reynolds wasnt spared the courses wrath with a back-to-back bogey finish, she refused to be shaken off the leaderboard in her quest to shock womens golf.
 
Through three rounds, thats just what the 24-year-old from Newnan, Ga., is aiming to do.
 
With a 3-over-par 74 Saturday, Reynolds fought to give herself the chance.
 
At 2-over 215, shes tied for third, four shots behind the leader, Cristie Kerr.
 
Reynolds resume says shes the longest of long shots. A Duramed Futures Tour pro, she played the U.S. Womens Open for the first time last year, shooting 75 and 82 and missing the cut in the only LPGA event she has ever played. A quality junior golfer, she didnt even play college golf, giving it up in her freshman year at the University of Georgia.
 
Burned out, weary of the game, Reynolds never re-joined the golf team. She went a year-and-a-half without playing a competitive round during her sophomore and junior years, but she got the fire back in her belly after graduating and turned pro. She drives to Futures Tour events in a 1998 Ford Explorer with 108,000 miles on it that her father calls Seabiscuit.
 
I got a couple speeding tickets in it, so thats what he calls it, Reynolds said. When I leave on trips, he tells me to try to keep the wheels on the ground.
 
Reynolds is flying high over her chances on Sunday.
 
Im having a blast here, Reynolds said. I just dont feel like I have anything to lose. Ive hung in there all week, so Im just going to go out there and see what happens.
 
Her family and friends are having a blast, too.
 
Theyre out in force rooting her around Saucon Valley. Her father and mother, Eloise, are here. So is her grandfather; her older brother, Garnet; some aunts and uncles and friends from Newnan.
 
Julie Wynne, a sorority sister from Georgia, hopped a train in New York City Saturday morning and joined the following Saturday afternoon. She didnt tell Reynolds she was coming, but Reynolds knew she was there as she made her way to the third green. She could hear Wynne.
 
Way to go Peanut, Wynne shouted.
 
Reynolds didnt just acknowledge her. She walked to the ropes and hugged her. Elisa Powell, A.K.A. Butters, another sorority sister, was there, too.
 
People might be surprised Jeans in this position, but Im not surprised, said proud papa David, a real-estate agent. But I am tickled to death.
 
Jeans a sweetheart, but shes tough. When she sets her mind to do something, you may as well comply, because shes going to do it, its going to get done.
 
As he waited for his daughter to sign her scorecard, David was asked to share a story about her willfulness. He pointed back to when Jean was 7 and she wanted to play with him in the Newnan Country Clubs annual junior-senior golf tournament. David told her she couldnt, that he was already playing with her oldest brother, Garnet, and that another relative was playing with her other older brother, John. There was nobody left to pair with Jean.
 
Jeans about 7 at the time, but she gets on the phone and calls the club pro and tells him that hes going to play with her, David said. She didnt ask him. She told him.
 
Jeans willfulness is evident on the Futures Tour this year. After an uninspiring start in her first year as a pro, she has won twice this year, including her last start two weeks ago.
 
I love being in the hunt on Sunday, Reynolds said. I just enjoy having a chance to win, and I go out and have fun doing it. If I stumble, I try not to let it get to me.
 
No matter what happens Sunday, her family and friends will relish seeing their little fighter take on a giant challenge.
 
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