Shoal Creek, Alabama — Former Caldwell County standout Emma Talley, a three-time Kentucky high school state champion, is back in Alabama for the U.S. Women’s Open and tees off at 8:08 CST today.
She played for Alabama and is very familiar with Shoals Creek, the site of this year’s tourney. She is coming off a 21st place finish in last week’s LPGA event and has two top 10 finishes so far in her rookie season.
She was one of the featured players in Wednesday’s press conference:
THE MODERATOR: Welcome back everyone to the 2018 U.S. Women’s Championship. I’m here with one of the most popular people on the golf course this week, Emma Talley, USGA champion and member at Shoal Creek.
Talk about what this means about having this championship at this course.
EMMA TALLEY: I actually had to qualify to get into the tournament. I’m a rookie on the LPGA. I was actually in the playoff for the last spot in Georgia a few weeks ago. I was more nervous than I’ve ever been before in my life. I was shaking on the 6-footer to get in. I was really, really, really excited to be playing in the — at my home course at the U.S. Open and then I got here and I saw all this stuff and, oh, my gosh, this is the best day of my life.
I’ve loved Shoal Creek. I’m very blessed and honored to be a member here. As soon as I graduated they gave me a membership. So, very excited.
THE MODERATOR: What does it mean to this club and to this community to have this championship here?
EMMA TALLEY: I feel like Birmingham is very much a golf community. Everyone — there’s so many good courses here and I feel like everyone loves golf with the Regions here a few weeks ago and now this.
The members — I was just talking to some people here yesterday I think everyone was picking up sticks and trying to get the course ready. So, everyone takes pride in Shoal Creek and so we’re excited.
THE MODERATOR: Any questions for Emma?
Q. As a member here, have you ever seen it this wet?
EMMA TALLEY: No, I haven’t. But when it’s raining I don’t come to the course (laughter). I usually just stay home and watch Netflix.
Q. How much have you gotten to practice this week and how do you think that is an advantage, you knowing the golf course as well as you do as opposed to some people who didn’t even get to get out at all?
EMMA TALLEY: When I saw the weather forecast I was like you know what, it might be my advantage if the practice rounds get all rained out. No, I got to come on Monday. I played 9 holes. Probably could have played around 12 holes before the thunder came in. I played the first nine holes. I haven’t got to play anymore.
I was an afternoon tee time today but it got canceled. I feel pretty good about it. I didn’t write anything in my yardage book because I don’t really know what to write. I feel pretty good about it.
Q. You’re from Kentucky and went to school in Alabama just like another well-known golfer, Justin Thomas. Do you feel like you’re a Kentuckian or Alabamian?
EMMA TALLEY: I’m mixed. I was living in Alabama up until two months ago. I’m going home to Kentucky a lot. Western Kentucky has been really good to me so I have to have my home — my feet are at home in Kentucky but I’m Bama all the way, I’m Roll Tide all the way, everything about me is a Bama girl.
Q. How would you describe Princeton, Kentucky where you come from if you had to sum it up?
EMMA TALLEY: It’s what you see in the movies, I guess, four stop light town, everybody goes to the football games, the whole town. Has an Emma Talley sign when you go into the town. It’s a very small town and everyone knows everyone’s business a little too much, probably.
Q. Is it one of those things where you can’t walk two feet without seeing someone you know this week and how will you sort of conserve energy because you’re such an outgoing person who likes to talk to everyone?
EMMA TALLEY: Yeah. I think I told you a couple weeks ago I was going to turn off my phone. That did not happen because I’m getting updates from the USGA.
But I actually today and yesterday went to a different course and hit balls instead of coming here, partially so I didn’t see everyone and also because I knew it would be packed. I didn’t want to hurt the course more than what everything is going on. I went to a different course and hit balls kind of to myself.
Got to play some music and my coach came today. Trying to stay calm and kind of be not myself necessarily, I’m not going out to eat with all my friends or anything. I’m just going back to my host family and relaxing, trying to make it as most normal tournament, I guess, as possible.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll have to get you a burner phone for the weather updates. Talk a little bit about when you saw your pairing, obviously we have an Alabama/Auburn pairing there.
EMMA TALLEY: Kristen Gillman won the U.S. Am and basically took my spot at Alabama when I graduated. That will be really fun. We went to Japan together for the World Am. I know her pretty well and excited to see her especially as good as a season as they had.
And then, obviously, we’re going to try to beat up on Cydney a little bit tomorrow and the next day.
Q. Emma, I was just wondering how different the course looks to you when you showed up and there’s a lot more going on here than usual.
EMMA TALLEY: It’s definitely my heaven on earth. I keep saying that, too, because it really is. It’s usually my peaceful place, I come and watch and I just — sometimes I’ll sit on the range on the ground and look out because it’s so beautiful.
I think it’s probably the most peaceful place I’ve ever been. It’s a lot more hectic, lot busier than usual but it’s really exciting and this will be a moment that I’ll remember the rest of my life as having the U.S. Open first year as a pro at my home course.
So, pretty cool experience.
Q. There’s a lot of very obvious positives to playing the U.S. Open at your home course and I don’t mean to be super negative or anything but is there also some added pressure and like some other kind of negative things to it that people don’t really talk about?
EMMA TALLEY: I think so but, at the same time, I’m really happy where my game is. I feel pretty confident in my game right now and I know tomorrow when I’m teeing it up it will probably be a little more pressure but I’ve actually — I’ve played this course a lot, I do call it my home course.
I’ve actually played the Regional Championship here when I was in college. I think that kind of gives me, I don’t know what the word is but it’s the same thing, it was a tournament. I played tournaments at this course so I’ve kind of already been in that situation before so I think that helps a bit to be — I’ve already experienced what that’s going to feel like a little bit on a bigger scale, but I have experienced it.
THE MODERATOR: You obviously know the course really well and if we get the sun, talk about what makes this course provide such a great test for this championship.
EMMA TALLEY: The greens are so hard. I hope the greens firm up. That’s what’s going to be the test. When you hit into some of the greens it just rolls off. You got to know what pins to go for, what pins not to go for and also where to miss because there’s some places out here, the back of 4, for example, you can’t miss behind the back of 4. So there’s several holes like that you just can’t miss.
So, yeah, I do know those advantages. The greens were actually pretty good on Monday firm-wise. I think they have sub-air here so that helps. But I don’t know if the amount of rain, that might be difficult for them to dry out completely.
Q. Two real quick, if I could. Any estimate of how many times you might have played Shoal Creek?
EMMA TALLEY: Oh, goodness. We started playing in it college so we played it a few times a year through college and then I had tournament here and now I’ve been a member for two years. Forty, 50, maybe. Several.
Q. Different front, you seem to be just a super ambassador for women’s golf, golf in general. Your personality always been outgoing and friendly. You seem to really enjoy what you do interacting with people.
EMMA TALLEY: I do. I love people and this game I think is really cool. Golf is the one sport where you get to talk to everyone around you. No other sport do you get to say hey, what’s up, how is your family, carry on a conversation.
I’ve loved golf for that reason and yeah, I’m going to look back and have a lot of friends all around the world, hopefully.
Q. As much as you love this course, how tough is it to see it just get kind of beat up by the storm and the winds —
EMMA TALLEY: I know.
Q. — the winds and debris. Has it been tough?
EMMA TALLEY: Yeah, for sure. I’ve seen the staff here, the members, they’ve really worked hard the past few years really. They changed up some bunkers two years ago and they’ve really worked really hard for this tournament and so it’s hard to watch Mother Nature just tear it apart a bit.
So even coming in I walked down the stairs and there’s mud. I’ve never seen mud there in my life and there are two huge mud piles. I’m like, “Where did that come from?”
It’s just from people walking. There’s nothing you can do about that. There’s nothing Shoal Creek can do about that. There’s nothing USGA. That’s just Mother Nature and hard to see but they will recover because they’re Shoal Creek.
Q. In the clubhouse?
EMMA TALLEY: Walk down the stairs just outside the clubhouse area.
Q. I know you said you didn’t take any notes but I’m curious if other players, since they haven’t gotten that many reps out here, have asked to see your notes or picked your brain?
EMMA TALLEY: Lot of them asked me last week, they’re asking me questions “What is the secret, what’s the secret? What do we need to do?”
I’m like, “You’re just going to have to wait and see.” I did tell them the greens are firm but that’s about all I said.
Q. Is that your way of keeping a competitive edge?
EMMA TALLEY: I guess so.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for Emma?
EMMA TALLEY: It’s too hard to tell them. Do you want a five hour explanation?
THE MODERATOR: Any last questions? Emma, thank you for being here. We really hope you enjoy the week.
EMMA TALLEY: Thank you. That y’all very much.