NEW JERSEY'S MARINA ALEX DISCUSSES CHALLENGES OF MAKING IT ON LPGA TOUR

Back in 2002, Marina Alex of North Jersey Country Club was runner-up to Katie Durnan of Ridgewood in the NJSGA Junior Girls Champuionship at Peddie Golf Club.

Some 15 years later, Alex, a graduate of Wayne Hills High School who won two high school championships, is making her mark on the LPGA Tour. On Friday, she found herself in contention at the U.S. Women's Open during the second round of play at Trump National Bedminster.

Alex, who turns 27 next month, had to go out early Friday to play the last three holes of her opening round after weather conditions forced suspension of play on Thursday.

After the opening round score of 70, Alex birdied the first and fifth holes on Friday to boost her to 3-under par and into a tie for 7th. A bogey on the 10th hole was erased by a birdie on the 15th hole, leaving Alex tied for 9th - three shots out of the lead.

Alex had three top 10 finishes last year and has three top 10s again in 2017. The fourth-year LPGA Tour player, a graduate of Vanderbilt University, finished in 20th place at the 2015 U.S. Women's Open but missed the cut in 2014 and 2016.

She opened up about the challenges she faced in being a dedicated golfer from New jersey who dreamed of playing on the LPGA Tour.

"It's been a really long day. Been here since about 5:15. Finished my first round okay. Conditions have been tough all day. On and off rain. The course is playing so much longer. The only benefit to that is the greens are softening. At least when you are coming in with long clubs, you can still hold the greens, which is great.

It was just steady. Hit a ton of fairways, a lot of greens, made some good putts early in the round. Made two really great putts on 17 and 18. One was for bogey. I drove it into the water on the right-hand side. It was really the only tee shot I had missed all day.

Made a really great birdie on 18, drove it in the left rough and hit a hybrid down and hit an 8-iron pretty tight into the flag. I'm really happy with how I finished now I get to relax for a little bit. It's been quite a chaotic 24 hours. A lot of on and off the course. Got back so late last night, so looking forward to some rest before tomorrow.

Q. Talk about the overnight and the turnaround this morning.
MARINA ALEX: It's difficult. I never want to say that one side of the draw is in a better position than the other, but in terms of our needing to be here, I mean I didn't get off the course until at least 8:45 and then it was a queue to get our cars. By the time I got back, and I'm only staying ten minutes away, it was 9:20, 9:30. Had to eat really quick, try and get myself to sleep. Woke up at 4:30. There was basically like no turnaround.

The second round was only delayed 15 minutes. So really in the grand scheme of things, our wave really had a lot to juggle. So just to be done and in a good position, I'm really pleased with.

It's been a really long day. Been here since about 5:15. Finished my first round okay. Conditions have been tough all day. On and off rain. The course is playing so much longer. The only benefit to that is the greens are softening. At least when you are coming in with long clubs, you can still hold the greens, which is great.

It was just steady. Hit a ton of fairways, a lot of greens, made some good putts early in the round. Made two really great putts on 17 and 18. One was for bogey. I drove it into the water on the right-hand side. It was really the only tee shot I had missed all day.

Made a really great birdie on 18, drove it in the left rough and hit a hybrid down and hit an 8-iron pretty tight into the flag. I'm really happy with how I finished now I get to relax for a little bit. It's been quite a chaotic 24 hours. A lot of on and off the course. Got back so late last night, so looking forward to some rest before tomorrow.

Q. Talk about the overnight and the turnaround this morning.
MARINA ALEX: It's difficult. I never want to say that one side of the draw is in a better position than the other, but in terms of our needing to be here, I mean I didn't get off the course until at least 8:45 and then it was a queue to get our cars. By the time I got back, and I'm only staying ten minutes away, it was 9:20, 9:30. Had to eat really quick, try and get myself to sleep. Woke up at 4:30. There was basically like no turnaround.

The second round was only delayed 15 minutes. So really in the grand scheme of things, our wave really had a lot to juggle. So just to be done and in a good position, I'm really pleased with.

Q. President Trump has announced he's going to be making an appearance at the course later today. What is your reaction to that and do you think this means for women's golf?
MARINA ALEX: Regardless of your political affiliation and whether you are a fan of Trump or you're not a fan of Trump, having a president at a women's golf event is pretty remarkable. It's going to draw attention to women's golf that has maybe never been in our favor before.

We have an unbelievable group of talented women playing golf right now. If it's allowing more people to see us play our game, I don't see anything wrong with that.

Q. How has this week been with your family here and all that?
MARINA ALEX: It's great having my family here. There's always a pressure being so close to home. I really want to represent my family, myself, my state. Not many people from New Jersey are out on Tour playing professional golf. Just that in itself, there's a lot of people backing me, which is awesome. Obviously everything going on with the fact that we're at Trump, all of that element added to it. For all of us, it's been -- probably a more high keyed U.S. Open then we've had in the past. But we're dealing with as we're dealing.

Q. Meaning your family or the players?
MARINA ALEX: My family, the players, everyone is kind of on edge, I think.

Q. Do you get a lot of New Jersey questions from other players?
MARINA ALEX: Some players have asked -- not really so much players, but there's a lot of fans out and they'll shout, Go Jersey, Go Wayne, where I'm from, and Wayne Hills, where I went to high school. A lot of that. It's cool. It really is. It's never going to happen really again for me. I got to soak it in.

Q. Being in contention at a U.S. Open here, does that make it better?
MARINA ALEX: Just to be in position, obviously it's incredible because it's here in New Jersey but to contend in a U.S. Open regardless of where the location is, is unbelievable. I'm really happy with where I put myself the last two days.

Q. You seem to be in control of your golf ball. It's one thing to want to play well when you come on. How gratifying is it to perform as well as you did?
MARINA ALEX: Regardless of what happens, the first two days I put together I'm really pleased with. I seem to struggle when I've gone to Atlanta City to play. Not that that's terribly close to home and maybe it's just the golf course doesn't suit me eye. I put so much pressure on myself to play well in the state of New Jersey because I want to represent you guys all so well. I'm really happy to have the showing that I've had these past two days.

Q. Are you going to be able to relax this weekend?
MARINA ALEX: I don't know. Something about the Opens and majors in general, they are really tough and you just can't give yourself a break. You have to focus on every tee shot, on every shot, on every putt. I think that just that element of having to be so engaged kind of allows players to kind of forget about all the other things going on because if you are not really paying attention to what you are doing in front of you, you are going to start making mistakes. You can't let your mind go wayward.

I even experienced it a little bit today. I was getting so tired and next thing I know I was hitting a couple of loose shots. It happens.

So I think the element of difficulty really just forces players to kind of zone in and focus on what they need to do. For me that's actually helped eliminate the external distractions currently going on.

Q. Is that something you've learned?
MARINA ALEX: It's all experience. I'm still -- I still consider myself relatively young in terms of my time out here. Not age compared to the average age of our Tour, but just this is my fourth year on the LPGA. This is only my third U.S. Open. So I have plenty of things to learn.

Q. Is this the hardest turnaround time as a professional?
MARINA ALEX: In a while. I honestly can't think of one off the top of my head that's been tougher than this, especially, like I said, we're at a major. This course is hard. This is probably the most difficult turnaround I've had. I am going to take a really long nap when I get back to my house.

Q. You've hit the point of your career where you seem to be improving, getting better. How do you convince yourself I can win?
MARINA ALEX: I put myself in I wouldn't say in super strong positions, but I've been close. I've been there several times, where I have been chasing near the leads. There's obviously players behind me that are continuing to push, and they end up winning tournaments. I think that in itself, just putting yourself in position, you start to learn more about yourself and you hopefully adapt to the negative, the positive, like all of those experiences because you are going to have both. And for me I just -- I try and take a step back. What did I do great there? What did I not do good there? Did I get too far ahead of myself? Did I not continue to push the envelope? Because it is so competitive out here right now that if you don't keep pushing, you are going to fall short. I think for me that's something I need to continue to do. I'm learning how to do it.

Q. Your home state does not lack for terrific golf courses. What is your best theory for why there aren't more players on the LPGA from here?
MARINA ALEX: You know, I know for me growing up, we had a lot of -- we didn't have a lot of tournaments and a lot of girls competitively playing, maybe a handful, like four or five. When you look at California and Florida, there's tons and tons of girls.

I think the cold weather really don't help develop your game. So it's kind of all cyclical, I guess, in the sense that if you don't develop in your high school years and then you go to college, and depending on where you go to college, maybe you are just -- it's just that wintertime really stunts the growth of players up here. Unless you plan to go to Florida for the winter or whatever the case may be, you almost are playing catch up constantly.

I noticed, when I got to college, I had so much to work on. I was quite far behind girls from various different parts of the country. Unless you are really putting in the time and the work then in your collegiate years to make that transition to the professional world, it's tough. Like a lot of girls get weeded out. Guys included, too.

Like you said, there's so many good golf courses. You really learn how to play difficult golf courses well. Unfortunately, I think it's just the seasons just really kind of hinder players from getting further along.

Q. It's one thing to hit shots out on No. 5, what is 16 going to be like?
MARINA ALEX: Yeah, that was -- honestly, that was probably my most stressful shot of the day. Just given the conditions today and it was kind of in between clubs. Like we were in between a 5-iron and a hybrid. I have a gap there already. I felt like even if I tried to control the hybrid it could have went too far. Over the bunker is no good. Obviously you have got to hit it on the green.

So for me that was the one shot of the day where I needed to stand up there and smash the 5-iron, and I did which I was pleased with. It's a stressful shot.

I mean, as the Saturday and Sunday rolls along and more people show up and I don't know what's going to happen with the course conditions, it's going to be -- those last three holes are going to be really good finishing holes for the tournament.

Q. What is your relationship with your brother?
MARINA ALEX: We have a good relationship. We don't really talk every day. For no reason other than we're so far geographically. We were both really supportive of one another. He just turned pro. He's playing pretty well doing Web.com Monday qualifiers. He's just waiting for his opportunity to get into one. He's had some really good showings at them, shooting 65, 66.

The competition out there is unbelievable. If you don't shoot 63 or 64, you are not Monday qualifying. I'm encouraging him to be patient and keep going along with the process. I think he's really going to get there and find his way.

Q. Is this a home week for you? Do you get back to Wayne?
MARINA ALEX: I actually chose not to this year. Or for this event. Usually when I come to Atlantic City, I spend a few days at home and it's great. But I think it really gets me out of my routine.

When I go to other tournaments, I don't do anything like that. I really wanted to treat this week and prepare for this week like I would be going to a U.S. Open, whether it was in Washington state or Texas or anywhere get there on Sunday like I normally would. I'm staying with a host family down the road at Hamilton Farms with a couple of other players.

All of that is how I would normally go about my tournament week, and I just wanted to do the same thing.

Q. You mentioned how much extra high energy this week has been, given the presidential situation. How much have you and your colleagues talked about what this might be like? It looks like he is going to show up. How much has it been on your mind?
MARINA ALEX: A little. They texted us last night about security, more time coming into the golf course. I was so tired last night, I was oh, my gosh, another 20 minutes tomorrow morning. Like, oh, boy.

You know what, we've discussed it. He came to the British when it was at Turnberry and it really wasn't as gigantic of a deal. Obviously he wasn't the president then, so I don't really know.

We've all discussed it, but we won't really know what it's going to be like until he's arrived.

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