Monica Vaughn feels like many of the officials who work for the Oregon Golf Association are extended family members. She’s known them, thanks to dozens of tournaments and USGA qualifiers, since she was 8 years old. Given that, who better to watch her qualify for her first U.S. Women’s Open – who better to hand over the coveted invitation – than someone like Brent Whittaker, the OGA’s Director of Tournament Operations?

“He’s been there for every OGA tournament win I’ve ever had,” Vaughn said. “It was really cool for him to get to pass over the invitation for the Open and to have that moment with him.”

Vaughn has tried for this nearly a dozen times, dating back to her early teenage years, when she was growing up in Reedsport, Oregon. The 36-hole U.S. Women’s Open qualifier on April 26 at OGA Golf Course in Woodburn, Oregon, just felt like her day. She opened with 9-under 63, followed up with a 71 and at 10 under, easily secured medalist honors and one of two available spots.

Vaughn’s boyfriend Justin Fisher caddied for her for the first time. She birdied four of her first five holes and decided she would keep trying to run in putts – even if they rolled three feet past the hole.

“The first round, I hit my irons so well, hit everything inside 12 feet and set myself up for success that day,” she said. “Feel like this whole 18 holes went so smoothly and I played so smart. I felt so calm because I felt like there was no way I was going to go and have a really bad round in the afternoon.”

At the University of Oregon, where Vaughn is in her third season as the assistant women’s golf coach, her boss, head coach Derek Radley, was manning the hype – have the Sports Information department make graphics, spreading the news, being “the biggest cheerleader of all time.” When Vaughn called him the next morning, Radley wanted to go through the whole card.

“We talked for like an hour,” Vaughn said. “Just super supportive. Even from a recruiting standpoint, it’s really cool to blow it up and be like, ‘Hey, we’re competitive here, we’re good players. We support this, come play for us.’ ”

Nine years ago, Casey Martin, Oregon’s head men’s golf coach and a former PGA Tour player, qualified for the 2012 U.S. Open while coaching the Ducks. Interestingly, that championship also was played at Olympic Club.

Vaughn brings her golf clubs to team practice every day, but doesn’t always get a chance to work on her own game. She thinks she’s played 10 18-hole rounds so far this year. Before the qualifier, Vaughn had had a chance to get her distances dialed in on the TrackMan.

The U.S. Women’s Open qualifier was a quick turnaround from the Pac-12 Championship at Stanford (California) Golf Course, where Oregon finished T-5 as a team on April 25. At the end of the tournament, Vaughn took four players with her to Portland and another player not in the Pac-12 lineup met them there.

Vaughn tee off at 8:40 a.m., with two Ducks behind her and a third, Hsin-Yu Lu, who had withdrawn, walking with her teammates after withdrawing from the qualifier. During college tournaments, Vaughn and Radley want their players to wave encouragement from hole to hole whether that’s after a birdie or a bogey.

“The girls were clapping and cheering, I was waving at them,” Vaughn said of the qualifier. “I just feel like we were really feeding off each other’s energy.”

Oregon junior Tze-Han Lin finished at 2 under, one shot out of an alternate spot, while sophomore Ching-Tzu Chen finished at 4 over. Both players, along with Lu, hail from Taiwan.

“Team Taiwan really pumped me up,” Vaughn said, referencing the team nickname for those three players.

By the end of the day, Vaughn was already looking at pictures of Olympic Club in San Francisco, where the Women’s Open will be played June 3-6. She also exchanged texts with Missy Farr-Kaye, the head women’s golf coach at Arizona State, where she played college golf.

“I’m like, ‘Missy, I didn’t peak in college!’ ” Vaughn joked.

Despite winning the NCAA Championship – with her team and as an individual – in 2017 and making a Curtis Cup team, Vaughn never tried to play on the LPGA. In addition to coaching at Oregon, she also recently joined the Oregon Golf Association’s Board of Directors.

“I kind of felt like after I won the national championship in 2017 that was truly kind of the peak and the pinnacle,” Vaughn said. “I didn’t really know what my golf goals were after that.”

Goals and highlights keep shifting – Vaughn last made headlines for her own game when she shot 58 in a college fundraiser in October 2020 – but a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open is a universal currency.

“To go out and do this, definitely a top, top moment of my golf career.”

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