July 27, 2013
An interview with
MODERATOR: I would like to welcome out 2013 U.S. Girls' Junior champion, Gabriella Then. Tell us what's going through your mind right now.
GABRIELLA THEN: I finally did it, a USGA championship. I've already played like how many of these? Maybe a dozen? Maybe 11? And until yesterday I have never made it past the quarterfinals.
So to be able to have my game where it is right now and be able to make it this far is great.
MODERATOR: That was an amazing battle you had.
GABRIELLA THEN: It was.
MODERATOR: What was going through your mind as it as it kept going back and forth.
GABRIELLA THEN: Well, I was thinking, Wow, she's fighting back. She had the adrenaline running through her and she was getting ready to fight back and get back down to all square, which we did.
I'm thinking, Okay, here we go. Last three holes. Got to make something happen here. Things just turned my way and I played consistent golf.
Where I need to hit the pressure shots and the draw, the fade, or the putt, I had them there and made them.
Q. Talk about 16 and 17.
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah, on 16 we both hit our drives around the same yardage. I was thinking, Okay, we both have a chance to make birdie here. We did it in the morning match, so it was possible.
And so I was just making sure of my yardage. I did hit it a little too far and then she ended up being farther. But when I saw that she hit it a little short I thought, Okay, 2 putt and I can get a 1 up advantage and be a little more calm on the next hole.
Q. Was it tough for you when she came back after being down so far to not let that rattle you?
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah, actually it didn't, because when I she was coming back from 5 to 4 to 3 and she was making birdies, so I wasn't completely giving it to her by making bogeys and stuff like that. I was hanging in there and trying to make my birdies.
Also, it was half an Alabama crowd, half whatever my crowd is because we’re all the way in Indiana. We had people like, Lakareber, come on. Let's go. Just stayed in the present and stayed in the moment. I knew what I had to do and just keep fighting her off.
Q. 15 was a really big halve for you. Can you walk us down that hole?
GABRIELLA THEN: Okay. I was just – I saw her pull 3 wood and I know she hits it farther than me and the wind was blowing into us across right to left. I was thinking, All right, just hit my driver. Okay, I hooked my driver into the trees. Great.
And then I had an opening toward the second fairway across two creeks. So first creek to the first fairway and then another creek, and I was just thinking, Okay, we have four more holes. Might as well just do it.
So I pulled my 3 wood but didn't have too much air on it, so it hit the bridge and came back. Then I dropped. I had about 210 yards left. I was just thinking to hit on the left side. I wasn't even aiming for the greens.
So I hit it as hard as I could and ended up on that top plateau there. I saw her hit a third shot into this little grass bunker, and I'm like, Oh, I might have a halve here. So a little turnaround. I just need two putts. Whatever you do, two putts. Focus on the line. That's what happened.
Q. When you came out after lunch with a 4 up lead, what was your strategy at that point? Go for the throat, or what was your mindset coming out of lunch?
GABRIELLA THEN: I was just thinking to hit my approach shots like I did in the morning. I was just focusing on my drives, because that's where I was a little bit wary this morning and this afternoon.
So I was just thinking if I keep it in the fairway and keep those approach shots, I would be able to hold her off because in order for her to beat me she would have to make birdies here and there, and I'm not going to just give it to her by making bogeys. She would have to work for it.
Q. You were driving the ball well this morning. About midway you started pulling everything to the left or hooking to the left, whatever you want to call it?
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah.
Q. But at some point when the lead started to go away, were you also battling yourself in some regards with your confidence, to get it back?
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah, I was kind of battling myself because I was thinking, Come on. I can do this. You can swing better than that. You know your target. Just hit it there and you'll be fine.
So when I started to hit those drives, it's like, It's okay. Just play back out to the fairway or whatever it was to play and you still are in this hole. You can still make par, bogey, or whatever.
So I said a positive mindset whenever I hit those bad shots because I knew I was still in the hole no matter what.
Q. You had said that this is one that you really wanted. What does it mean to get this? What are you feeling right now as far as this accomplishment?
GABRIELLA THEN: I feel like those months after the last summer and fall had a little bit – my game wasn't that great and my mental attitude was down, my confidence was not there. I felt like those months of preparation and building up the consistency in my game paid off this week.
I saw the pressure shots and I was calming down my nerves where it mattered most, where the shots had to go in or you have to hit at the green, stuff like that. Really showed I could do it.
Q. Last year you had a little bit of a slump. What was it that was keeping you from scoring? Was itmental or part of your game?
GABRIELLA THEN: It was both mental and also every part of my game was like a C , or like a C+. It was average or maybe below average.
Say like on some easy 10 or 15 yard chip shot, no, because I would doubt myself. No, wait. You have to hit it short. No, wait, hit it a little longer. So I would be uneasy over the shot, and then it would not turn out good.
So it was a doubt in my mind that led to the average play in each part of my game: the putting and chipping and driving.
Q. We heard that you were kind of upset that you didn't make the Junior Solheim Cup team; is that correct?
GABRIELLA THEN: Um, I was slightly. I feel like now after I accomplished this, you know, more things can come out of this. Even though I didn't make the Solheim, there’s nothing you can do about it. The points were back at Wyndham Cup, I believe. It was that week.
Yeah, so I didn't play good enough to get up in those points, but now that I have this, I am thinking I'll have my ranking for the All America team, the Polo Rankings.
Q. No. 12, the par 5.
GABRIELLA THEN: This afternoon?
Q. You have to admit that your game was a little shaky. You could have easily laid up, but you chose to go for the green. What was going through your head? What was the thinking there?
GABRIELLA THEN: Well, on No. 12, starting Thursday, Friday and – well, this morning I hit a bad drive. On Thursday and Friday, I think three out of the four matches I was down there and I had already played the two long shots. So I already played it a couple times.
So I was pretty confident in that hybrid shot, because I knew I could do it. Also the wind was blowing left to right, so with the water right there I knew that if I just hit a little fade it was fine.
Also, I knew if I missed I had the bunker. I knew that I had lots of space behind.
Q. Was he your caddie all week.
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah. He caddied for her (Angella), and then when she lost in the first round went with me the rest of the way.
Q. Who did you have before him? Do you know what his name was?
GABRIELLA THEN: Joe.
Q. (Indiscernible.) I would think your name would pop up on some kind of Curtis Cup radar. (Indiscernible.)
GABRIELLA THEN: I wasn't, but I was feeling my game was turning around. I was feeling like I was beginning to learn to shoot under consistently. I was learning to take the birdie opportunities that I'm getting and all that stuff. Trying to take out those mistakes or the ones that you – just learning to shave some strokes off my game.
Q. Who do you work with?
GABRIELLA THEN: With my short game, I work with Ron Stockton, Dave Stockton's son. Yeah.
Q. Do you work with anyone on the mental side?
GABRIELLA THEN: Mental? No, actually no. Yeah, no.
Q. How about a swing coach.
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah, that's a good question. We're in between right now. Greg Castleman is one, and another one is – what is his name? Craig Chapman.
Q. The one the Jutanugarns use?
GABRIELLA THEN: I only had one lesson. He switched a lot of things, so...
Q. Really? Something in your swing or technical things?
GABRIELLA THEN: Fundamental things. Like on my drive, I was almost outside on my left toe and he brought it inside.
Q. Were you afraid of making fundamental changes before a national championship?
GABRIELLA THEN: No, because I had nothing to lose. This was my last one. At the time there were no more tournaments after that. What am I gonna do? Okay, just go do it.
Q. And it paid off.
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah, it did.
Q. You almost didn't come here. What changed your mind?
GABRIELLA THEN: Yes. Let's see, at the U.S. Open I knew that if you made the cut you get in the Girls’ Junior and the Amateur. But I missed it by five shots and I was like, Okay, what should I do? Should I just play Rolex TOC and be done with it? Might as well just finish with that tournament?
Or should I drive 15 hours to Alabama and qualify and go to Indiana. So me and my dad were going back and forth. We made the drive and paid off.
Q. Did you qualify in Alabama?
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah, with Jan Berry.
Q. So you drove down there from the Open?
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah.
Q. And then you flew home?
GABRIELLA THEN: No. From Alabama to New York because she had an AJGA in Rochester.
We finished our tournament, took a lesson with Craig Chapman, and then came here. I had to do the orientation again because I'm like, Okay, whatever happens, I'm leaving. I am going to gone for a week. So now I have to do it next, next next, week.
Q. What did she (Karen Chung) tell you?
GABRIELLA THEN: Oh, lots of stuff, but I'll get it later. Two days before I start school. (Laughter.)
Q. Take the trophy to the dorm with you?
GABRIELLA THEN: I don't know if my coach will be happy. They're like, Call me. Call me right now.
Q. Did you and Lakareber talk?
GABRIELLA THEN: I think besides, Move your mark, probably said nothing. Move your mark and, yeah, that's about it. I'm pretty sure we said nothing else. Or, am I in the way?
Yeah, I mean we're still friends. It's not like it was like a not-friendly match. It was just like a normal like – we played our best and we fought hard and that's how it turned out in the end.
Q. Had you ever blown a five-hole lead before?
GABRIELLA THEN: I'm trying to think. With Cheyenne, I think I stayed right? Then she one to next two holes and went 3 up. Yeah, you know what? I was sensing a pattern here. The first couple holes would be like 2 up, 3 up, and then I would get it to whatever. Then I would go to 6, 7, 8, 9, I would be like 1 up.
Then, 10, 11, 12, back to 13, 3 up. So something like that. I had a pattern. I don't know. They always came back when I had the high lead. But then I had like 1 up or 2 up and I never let go of it. Never let it slip to 1 down and I still had the advantage.
Q. Before the final, what do you think was the hardest match to get there?
GABRIELLA THEN: Well, I had – pretty sure it was Megan. I don't know what the match is, but she was most consistent. Hit the fairway every time. I'm over here like, Okay, yeah, good. Fairway, fairway. I'm over here like whatever.
Then Megan, because of her consistency of her driving and also her – she has a lot of heart in her game. Yeah, her game was ready this week. It was tough to beat her.
Q. Given how erratic you all can be, have you ever played that well, your short game?
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah, I had a lot of experience in the trees, the water, all this area, so I know exactly – well, not exactly, but I know the strategy. I'm getting better at it.
No. 18 during our morning match I hit it in the water. I laid up on the other side of the creek and I knew that I could still make a bogey whatever she's going to do. Then she hit it into the bunker and wound up making a bogey.
I was like, Okay, this is where you have the hole even they you hit a bad shot because you're still in it no matter what. Anything can happen in the match.
Yeah, that's how I stayed in it, because I never gave up on the hole where I was in trouble.
Q. Like on 15?
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah, when I was in the woods. Because I told you I had the opening like about 15 feet wide. She's in the fairway. I don't know if she's going to lay up or go for it, but I'm just going to go for it because there are only four more holes left. Even though it didn't work out the first and second try, I still had the hole.
Q. What did your parents have to say to you when you were done? They were tense all through it.
GABRIELLA THEN: I know. She said after I hit my second shot on 17, I hit it to about six feet, my dad started crying.
But of course I was just thinking she was behind another tree and I knew she had to hit low and that there is no way you would be able to stop it, because the pin was tough, very close to the corner.
So I'm saying, Okay, just try to hit this one in birdie range and try to finish it here. Come on. So I don't have to play another hole.
Yeah, and same with mom when that putt. The whole tournament was like that. But, yeah.
Q. Did you cry when you saw your dad cry?
GABRIELLA THEN: Almost. I was like, Wait, I have to go on camera. But I was like – yeah, because I don't know, if you watch me, I'm not really like emotional on the course. I don't know if anyone noticed or anything.
If I make a birdie or bogey or double or eagle or whatever, okay, I made it. It's like whatever score I got. It's not like, Shoot! I just try to stay calm and stay in the moment.
Q. I think it's that kind of mentality, like you were saying...
GABRIELLA THEN: Yeah, because on 11 when she made like a 50 footer for birdie and the whole crowd, three quarters of crowd was from Alabama. They were like, Come on. You can did it. Come back.
I'm like, No, not yet. I want to keep holding on to this 1 up lead. Oh, on 14, I was like, This is not the time to go one down. You don't have time for this.
So I just stayed focused and positive.
Q. What did you hit into 12 for your irons today?
GABRIELLA THEN: I had 218 and I hit like 4 iron. Yeah, it was left right wind and I've played it before. I was shooting great, whatever. As long as it's over there.
MODERATOR: Thanks, Gabby, so much.
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