Atholton's Nguyen making mark on national stage

Bryana Nguyen hits a drive from the 17th hole during the second round of the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach at Del Monte Golf Club on July 9, 2011 in Monterey, Calif.
Bryana Nguyen hits a drive from the 17th hole during the second round of the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach at Del Monte Golf Club on July 9, 2011 in Monterey, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Stan Badz, US PGA TOUR)

Bryana Nguyen will be the first to tell you that she's lucky.

She's lucky to be traveling the country this summer playing golf, lucky to have gotten the chance to play on television at the prestigious Pebble Beach golf course in California, and even luckier to have been able to play multiple rounds alongside Champions tour professionalFred Funk.


When you're one of the area's top junior golfers, though, luck has a way of finding you.

"It's been a hectic, but great summer so far," said Nguyen, a rising sophomore at Atholton High School. "I've been fortunate to have had the chance to meet a lot of great people and travel to places that a lot of people my age don't get to. It's tiring sometimes, but definitely worth it."

In the span of a little more than a month starting in late May, Nguyen played golf in seven states — down south to North Carolina, out west to California and she mixed in trips to Ohio and Illinois around closer visits to neighboring states Virginia and Pennsylvania.

There have been few breathers.

"This summer and next summer are big ones to try and get exposure for college," she said. "I owe a lot to my dad for traveling with me everywhere, giving me the chance to do this. … He's trying to prepare me for the kind of travel and competition there is at the next level."

Nguyen, the Howard County girls Golfer of the Year last fall as a freshman, isn't just playing in these tournaments, either. She's excelling.

In late May, she fired a final-round 72 to earn a two-shot victory at the Peggy Kirk Bell Open Championship in Salisbury, N.C. A couple weeks later, she shot a winning round of 70 at a qualifier in Ohio for the 63rd U.S. Girls Junior championship. She was the only Maryland player to make the field for the July 18-23 tournament at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club.

Nguyen's summer hit the high point when she was selected to participate in the Champions Tour's Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, Calif., July 8-10 through her involvement with The First Tee of Howard County.

Each of the 78 junior golfers was paired with a Champions Tour professional and Nguyen drew Funk, a University of Maryland graduate who won eight tournaments on the PGA Tour and six on the Champions Tour.

"He was amazing and made it really fun," she said. "He has kids of his own around my age, so it couldn't have worked out any better. I thought it might be awkward going in, but he welcomed me right away."

The duo ended up tying for 11th in the three-day event that was televised by the Golf Channel. And, thanks to her own strong play, Nguyen was featured several times during the live broadcast.

Throw in the fact that she was able to play one of the most famous golf courses in the country and it was certainly a week to remember.

"It didn't even feel real at first being out there," Nguyen said. "It really is a dream come true to play a course like that. It's funny because even when you mess up, you can't get mad because you're getting to play Pebble Beach."

After getting through the first two days of stroke play at the U.S. Girls Junior Championship, Nguyen shot a 4-under 52 over 15 holes to beat Nicole Morales, of South Salem, N.Y., 4-and-3, in the first round match-play competition. Though she lost in the second round to Allison Lee, of Valencia, Calif., 1-up, she was able to chalk it up as another valuable learning experience


"Last year I missed making match play by a lot, so it was definitely a step forward," she said. "It was especially nice because there were a lot of colleges there that got to see me play."

After a month on the road, Nguyen now has a little time off to regroup. Before she knows it, though, she'll be back on the road with tournaments on the schedule in North Carolina, Philadelphia and Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas, she will be looking to defend her title in the Vietnamese Golf Association National Tournament. Last year she became the first female and youngest winner of the event.

"Really, the summer is only about halfway over," she said. "There are still some big tournaments left … a lot of goals I still want to achieve.

"I'm hoping for a couple more wins before school starts."

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