For Vanessa and Rod Perry, the 97th annual South Atlantic Women's Amateur Championship, the Sally, in Ormond Beach was a daughter-father event.
Vanessa, a 14-year-old Spruce Creek High School freshman, teed off among 85 players in the Championship Division of the event. She played in the Rockefeller Division last year.
Mr. Perry, head golf professional at Crane Lakes Golf and Country Club in Port Orange, was “on the bag” as his daughter said, caddying for her.
“I didn’t play my best,” Vanessa said after the Jan. 4 opening day of the event that ran through Jan. 7. “The wind started to pick up a little bit, so I hit a couple poor shots, but positive thinking for the next couple of days.”
After one day of rest, she was scheduled to play in the Speed Coast Junior Golf Tour Jan. 9 in Viera.
“I have a week full of golf,” she said.
Vanessa remembers having a golf club in her hand as early as age four.
“I got into golf at a very young age,” she said. “I was probably like (age) four when my father took me out to the course for the first time. And then I was getting into golf competitively when I was eight.”
She also has been active in other sports, including ice skating and softball. At Spruce Creek she participates in the Student Government Club and the Academy of Finance.
“I’m a local junior golfer hoping for the best,” Vanessa said. “I aspire to play golf throughout college. That’s ultimately the goal. I’m just grateful for the chance to play in the Sally.”
Several collegiate golfers participated in the Sally.
Emma McMyler of Xavier University returned to defend the championship she won last year with a 1 under par 287.
Kaitlyn Schroeder of Jacksonville, who is ranked second in the junior level, also returned this year.
Also participating this year was Gianna Clemente of Ohio, who at age 14 last year won three straight qualifiers to play in LPGA Tour events.
“I’m not sure if I want to go on tour yet,” Vanessa said. “Then again, I’m 14 years old. I would definitely love that, but I’m keeping my mind open.”
Participating in the Sally is a tremendous learning opportunity for her, said Mr. Perry, her father and coach.
“This is honestly a huge competition,” he said. “Not so much in junior golf, but certainly in female amateur golf. It’s a chance for her to perhaps play with some collegiate players, just to kind of see what the next level of competition is like.”
When Mr. Perry took over as head golf professional at Crane Lakes 10 years ago, there was a lot of work to do to organize and staff the country club the way he wanted. That left little free time for family, including Vanessa, who was four at the time.
“There were many days when she wanted to see her dad, she had to come to the golf course,” he said. “She didn’t have any other choice. She’s basically had a club in her hand since she could walk.”
Mr. Perry now serves as his daughter’s golf coach and, as he did on the first day of the Sally, her caddy.
“I did caddie today and hopefully she won’t pink slip me before the end of the week,” Mr. Perry said. “I love to caddie for her when she is permitted to have one, which isn't often in junior golf events, and when I can be available.
“It’s a blast,” he said. “I can't begin to tell the value I place on spending 5 or 6 hours by her side without any distractions. She works with a couple of other golf pros on her game besides me, but it gives me a great opportunity to see what she needs to work on to improve.”
She also values the time spent with her father.
“He’s a huge help,” Vanessa said. “He’s obviously a huge role model for me, seeing him successful at his career at golf has definitely motivated me to look forward to what’s in store. He’s a great coach. He’s a good dad. He’s very supportive.”
When it comes to golf, she loves the walk, being outside and enjoying time with her family. In addition to her father, mother Jaclyn is there to drive, support and cheer. Brother Carson, age 11, recently qualified for the National Drive and Putt Contest.
“I obviously love spending time with my family,” she said.