Maryland product Ashley Greer prepares for Women’s PGA Championship

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The last time Ashley Grier won a tournament at Capitol Country Club, she was on the short game.

A tricky approach and a stunning birdie putt on the first playoff hole of the 2014 Maryland Women’s Open put Greer at the top of the Bethesda Course leaderboard — which she will take this week. Return to the venue for the Women’s PGA Championship.

Drive 60 miles northwest of Congress and you’ll come across where Greer honed his short game: Yingling Golf Center, a par 3 course in suburban Hagerstown with no more than 110 yards of holes.

David and Judy Grier bought Heroic Spirit in 1990 when Ashley was 5 years old. It wasn’t long before she completed the course with her mother, father or grandfather – and soon after, both of her younger sisters grew up to play.

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“Playground,” David Greer calls it. A playground often used by his daughter—on the days PGA pro David is in class, and in the evenings after classes.

“The next thing you know, they’re not good at it,” David said.

That’s a knowing understatement from a father who would later watch his three daughters grow up and forge some kind of dynasty at Fort Smith High School. Since the school did not have a girls golf team, Ashley and her two younger sisters competed on the boys’ team, earning the nickname “Grill Girls of Golf”.

Greer won the Maryland State Championship in 2000 and went on to play at the University of Central Florida. Then, while her sisters forged their college golf careers, Big Sister Greer turned pro in 2006 and made her debut at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open. She spent five years as an Associate Professional at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, just a few miles from Congress. After five years at the Overbrook Golf Club in Villanova, Pennsylvania, Greer returned home to the Heroic Spirit.

She continues to teach and compete, participating in the 2018, 2019 and 2021 Women’s PGA Championship. She was named the 2020 National Women’s PGA Player of the Year and entered the event with a top-eight finish at last summer’s LPGA Pro National Championship in Kings Mill, Williamsburg, Virginia.

But while Greer, 38, has played in four majors, returning to Congress feels a little different.

“It definitely made it feel more special,” Greer said. “It feels like my hometown. I’m back in my area.”

Her career has taken her to some of the nation’s top courses, but the short-game wisdom drawn from Hero has become an integral part of her game. Ashley equates the tournament situation to what she might have encountered in Hagerstown, her father said.

Greer’s short game is her forte, but the congressional distance doesn’t worry her.

“The older you get, the more clever ways you can find ways to play,” she said. “You don’t have to always attack the pins.”

Managing her workload has become increasingly important to Greer after a car accident on Super Bowl Sunday four years ago, which left her with lingering back pain. She plays the front nine on Tuesday and will practice the back nine on Wednesday before teeing off at 7 a.m. Thursday.

Following her in Congress will be her parents and various other family members, as well as friends from local classes, including Columbia. David laughed when he imagined a crowd — around 75, by his estimate — likely watching his daughter from the first tee on Thursday.

Teeing off after Greer will be the best in the world: Nelly Korda, Jin Young Ko, Minjee Lee, Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson to name a few. For Greer, this week will need to balance confidence and gauge expectations. Her goal is to advance, and she has yet to achieve that in a major.

“They’re the best players in the world,” Greer said. “So they do it all day, every day for a living, and I try to make up a month and be ready to go. But just stick to my game and enjoy the experience, that’s my ultimate goal.”

Players at the Women’s PGA Championship unexpectedly received an email Tuesday afternoon from LPGA Commissioner Molly Marcux-Saman informing them that this week’s prize pool would increase to $9 million, the most at last year’s tournament. double the bonus.

It’s the second-largest total in LPGA Tour history, after the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this month at the Pine Needles in South Pines, N.C.

“I didn’t get a chance to go through all my emails,” Marcoux Samaan said. “But I’ve seen some of them and they’ve been hysterical. They’ve been saying, ‘Oh my God,’ you know, ‘Oh my God. ” “

The most-watched groups so far in Tuesday’s Pro-Am include two familiar faces from DC sports. Over the weekend, former Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman’s star No. 11 retired, and Washington Capitals guard John Carlson played alongside Megan Khang.

Zimmerman’s brother Sean completed the foursome.

“It was fun,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who had a four-handicap. “I told Johnny that I never did these things in the summer. A whole new world opened up to me.”

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