SAN FRANCISCO – The governor of New Jersey tweeted about Megha Ganne on Friday, but the 17-year-old from Holmdel wouldn’t have been on social media to see it. There’s the occasional TikTok video, but that’s about it. Her parents guided her on the matter, of course, but ultimately it was Ganne’s decision, and she didn’t see the need for it.
“I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on anything,” she said, “and of late there’s so much negative effects that I see on teenagers of social media, and it’s, one, a distraction, I think.
“Obviously it has its positive effects, and there’s a lot of people who manage it really well, but it’s not something I want to try to experiment with, at least right now.”
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) June 4, 2021
Governor Phil Murphy also congratulated Ganne the first time she qualified for a U.S. Women’s Open in 2019, giving her mother quite the shock when she got a call from the principal’s office. Ganne remembers her hands shaking so badly at the Country Club of Charleston that summer that she couldn’t draw a circle on her golf ball.
This week, she’s as steady as a tightrope walker.
After sleeping on a share of the overnight lead at the 76th U.S. Women’s Open, Ganne came out on Friday without her “A” game and put up a gutsy even-par 71 to stay at 4 under and in the clubhouse lead at Olympic. She poured in a 9-foot putt for par on her final hole and basked in the warm ovation.
Thriving on a big stage
“I love it so much,” she said. “I wish every event I had a gallery watching me because it just makes me play better, I think. And I love being in the spotlight, so it’s been really fun.”
After Ganne missed the cut at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last spring, she and swing coach Katie Rudolph had a talk about getting the most out of a day that’s off. Rudolph said that they had to rewire the way Ganne approached the entirety of an event.
“Megha, when she plays her best golf, she’s unbeatable,” said Rudolph, “but how often do you get to play with your best golf? It’s not going to be there for four days. This was a prime example.”
Ganne hit only nine fairways and 10 greens in Round 2 but took only 28 putts. The ability to salvage pars and not compound mistakes, Ganne said, is what “separates the pros from the amateurs I think a lot of the time.” Only one amateur has ever won the U.S. Women’s Open, Catherine Lacoste in 1967. Ganne survived a playoff at sectional qualifying to advance to Olympic. Birdie Kim was the last qualifier to win this championship in 2005.
Rudolph said Ganne’s mind is her strongest attribute, and she points to Ganne’s parents, Sudha and Hari, as the reason for that. Rudolph, longtime COO of The First Tee of Metropolitan New York who was recently named head men’s and women’s golf coach at NYU, talks often about the conversations parents have with their kids on the car ride home.
Is a kid getting an earful, she asks, or an earful of support?
Sudha admits they didn’t always get it right, but Rudolph said their emphasis on fun and support is the gold standard.
“Megha could’ve shot 105 and it would’ve been the same supportive conversation on the way home,” said Rudolph, “and that’s so important. The Gannes have this figured in terms of the parenting piece of junior golf.”
Megha Ganne’s mother and sister react to her birdie on the 16th hole during the first round at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, June 3, 2021. (Kathryn Riley/USGA)
Ganne, No. 1 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings, is set to attend Stanford in the fall of 2022, where she will join other amateur superstars Rachel Heck and Rose Zhang, who are also in the field. Could a big week here at Olympic derail that plan?
“Oh, that’s absolutely out of the question,” said Megha’s mother, Sudha. “There’s no wavering on that. She absolutely needs to go to college.”
Sudha, an endocrinologist, emigrated to the U.S. from India 25 years ago and married Hari, an IT professional who introduced Megha and little sister Sirina to the game.
Sudha had to sit near the charger last night to answer all the messages she received. She woke up Friday morning to a new barrage of notes from India. She called it overwhelming but enjoyable.
Megha, for her part, has always enjoyed the spotlight. In school, she tried out for Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” but the teacher cast her as the Queen of Hearts.
“She lived it,” said Sudha, smiling.
On Friday, the PGA Tour tweeted a video of an 11-year-old Megha meeting Jordan Spieth for the first time at First Tee clinic in 2015. She asked Spieth a question about how he handles pressure down the home stretch.
Six years later, she’s one back at the @USWomensOpen.
“If he can do it, I think I can do it, too.” pic.twitter.com/lPk1nMZpia
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 4, 2021
When the questions turned to her, someone asked if she was amazed that a 21-year-old could be No. 1 in the world.
“That’s cool,” said a brace-faced Megha. “It just makes me think that if he can do it, I think I can do it too.”
Megha probably won’t see that video pop up today. But that’s OK, because she lived it.