LPGA Tour Rookie Jean Reynolds on the 2009 US Women’s Open, Georgia Football and Mashed Potatoes
By Stephanie Wei under General

You might remember Jean Reynolds from last year’s US Women’s Open. If you watched at all or were at Saucon Valley (like I was), then you definitely remember her. During the third round I watched her play about five holes. The fans at Saucon Valley fell in love with the sprightly petite lady from Newnan, Georgia, who spent the past two years playing on the Futures Tour. Jean made headlines after the first two rounds of the US Open when she was two shots off the lead. She ultimately placed T17.

Competing on the Futures Tour, she won two tournaments in 2009 and finished second on the money list to secure her LPGA Tour card.

Last month I received a nice email with some kind words from Paulie Maggiore, who introduced himself as Jean’s caddie. Naturally, I replied to thank him and asked if he could put me in touch with her for an interview. He graciously did. Read on for my chat with Jean.

Also, be sure to follow Paulie on Twitter (@TheTourCaddieOG) — he’ll be tweeting about his and Jean’s adventures this season and she’ll be using his account, too (she’s self-admittedly not tech-savvy).

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

SW: Talk about your experience at the 2009 US Women’s Open. How did it influence the rest of your year?

JR: Going into the Open, I had a lot of confidence. I started off well on the Futures Tour and had two wins tucked away. So going into that week, I knew I was playing well and I was just looking forward to make the cut — like I did the first year. I had the experience, so I knew kind of what to expect. I played a few practice rounds and my coach flew up — I work with Charlie King out of Reynolds Plantation — on Tuesday of that week. He settled my nerves a bit. I got off to a good start on Thursday [in the first round] and it just led to a good week. I was, of course, disappointed with Sunday, but I’d be lying if nerves weren’t a factor on the final day. Other than that, the experience was incredible and it just gave me a confidence boost for the rest of the year. I also met some awesome people. Everyone was just so nice, supportive, complimentary, and it added to making that week unforgettable.

SW: Your caddie, Paulie, told me to ask you about the games you guys played on the course at the Women’s Open. Talk about that.

JR: I had a lot of family and friends up there, and to keep me distracted we played a rendition of “Where’s Waldo?,” where we looked for a family member or friend. It takes your mind away from leaderboards, three-foot putts and just what was really at stake. So, Paulie was a tremendous help out there, especially as far as keeping me relaxed.

SW: Yeah, I followed you for a while on Saturday [during the third round], and you looked like you were having a good time.

JR: Yeah, we were just both laughing and cutting up. I mean, that’s the most important thing, for me, anyway — when I’m in that kind of stressful situation at a golf tournament, I just try to relax the best I can without forgetting what I’m there to do.

SW: Who introduced you to golf?

JR: My grandfather, father, and two brothers are huge golf nuts and I tagged along with them when I was 6 or 7. I got more into it when I was about 10 and started playing in some Atlanta Junior events, the Southeastern Junior Tour, and a few American Junior Golf Association ones. But I just had a really good state and amateur record. I played in four of the USGA Girls’ Junior Championships.

SW: You were on the University of Georgia Women’s Golf Team for one year. Why did you quit?

JR: I redshirted my freshman year. I was just enjoying college and I joined a sorority. I was doing normal college kid things and my head just wasn’t 100% in golf at that time, so I walked away from it. I think it was a really good decision because I don’t think I would be playing now if I stuck with it…I’ve had people ask me, “Do you feel like you missed out playing college golf?” I had that one year of experience. I didn’t travel with the team, but I really don’t think I missed out at all. I don’t regret the decision I made.

SW: Yeah, I hear that. It’s understandable. I mean, at Yale it was time-consuming enough and that’s just the Ivy League. I know it’s way more intense at a school like UGA.

JR: Yeah, you’re going from 6-8 five days a week — I’ve never played that much in my life. I mean, I practice, but I was just getting sick of it. I knew something had to change.

SW: What inspired you to turn pro after college?

JR: It was one of those things where my friends and I were like, “What are we going to do?” I’d played in a few Georgia State Amateur events prior to turning pro and finished pretty well. So I went to Futures Q-school and placed fifth. Then I played full-time in 2008 and had a mediocre year. I finished about 45th [on the money list] and that doesn’t get you anywhere. My attitude was heinous after that and I missed the cut at the final stage of LPGA Q-school. So I took the off-season to figure out what I wanted to do and sat down with my coach to reevaluate the year and what I really wanted. I started fresh in March ‘09 and here am I, about to start up in March on the LPGA. It’s been kind of a whirlwind.

SW: Paulie also said to ask you about mashed potatoes in your sorority house.

JR: Oh yeah…we had a huge mashed potato fight in the kitchen. There might have been brownies involved. But after that, they shut the kitchen down, where you couldn’t get in after ten at night.

SW: You’re a big Georgia football fan. How was that a part of your college experience?

JR: We would go to a lot of away football games. We always went to Georgia-Florida. Also, Georgia-Auburn was fun. Just weekends like that, we’d get together with friends from other schools. The [golf] coach wasn’t really big on me being in a sorority. At that point, friends were more important to me than my golf game. But it worked out best for me. A lot of people thought I’d quit for good, but I always knew I’d go back to it.

SW: Do you have any superstitions or rituals?

JR: I have a buckeye that I keep in my bag — a good friend of my parents gave me that he got from his father. He gave it to me about a year ago. I’m thinking that might be my good luck charm. I’m not sure, but I haven’t taken it out to see if the luck is going to change. So I’m just going to keep it in there and pretend it’s good luck.

SW: What’s the craziest fan encounter you’ve had?

JR: It was funny because at the US Open, a lot of my friends were there and we all have nicknames for each other. So there were fans were yelling, “Where’s Butters?” and “Where’s Jules?” Because [reporters] had written about them in some of the articles. I got a laugh out of that. But no crazy autograph stories. Someone asked me, “What’s the weirdest thing someone has asked you for an autgoraph?” I don’t have any weird stories like that. I had a fan ask me for my hat. I would have given it to him, but I had really bad hat hair, so I decided I better hold on to that one.

SW: What’s your drink, alcohol-wise?

JR: Beer.

Do you have a favorite kind?

JR: No, just beer.

SW: What’s your favorite place to travel? And why?

JR: Probably Chicago. It’s just such a cool city — so much to do. The golf courses there are incredible. I mean, I don’t like to stay in big cities for very long, but I definitely like to check out the activities and what’s going on.

SW: Do you have a celebrity crush?

JR: Oh, Ryan Gosling. Or, who did I just see? I’m a reality TV show watcher — you know the kind that just rots your brain. I love Keeping Up With the Kardashians. They just crack me up.

SW: What do you look forward to the most on the LPGA and what do you think will be the greatest challenge?

JR: Well, the greatest challenge will be the competition — it’s just gotten so good out there. But I’m just looking forward to playing awesome golf courses, meeting different people, traveling again, and just getting back to competing.