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Heck yeah: Teenage American golfer shines in 2nd major test

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France — When 16-year-old Rachel Heck finally hits the professional golf tour, the current world No. 2, Ariya Jutanugarn, plans to give her a lot of respect.

American high schooler Heck made a big impression Sunday completing the Evian Championship — her second major — in a fun grouping with the Jutanugarn sisters, two-time major winner Ariya and 13th-ranked Moriya.

“She surprised me,” Ariya Jutanugarn told The Associated Press. “Hit the ball really pretty well, unbelievable getting up and down.”

Heck justified her wild-card entry in France first by making the cut, just as she did in her majors debut at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open.

“It was amazing, I was just grateful to be here,” said the native of Memphis, Tennessee, adding she had no set targets. “Because last year I made the cut at the U.S. Open, so people were like, ‘Oh, you can do it again.”‘

She did. On a hillside course overlooking Lake Geneva with deceptive sloping greens, the teenage amateur went 70-73-72-71 to finish on 2 over with no double bogeys all week.

If tied for 44th sounds just OK, it put Heck alongside Evian defending champion Anna Nordqvist and Moriya Jutanugarn, who won her first LPGA Tour title this season. They were set to earn about $16,000 each but Heck’s amateur status prevents her getting paid.

“I think she’s going to have a really, really good career,” said Ariya Jutanugarn, who won the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open in July. “I told her, ‘I’m waiting for you in five more years.”‘

The admiration went both ways.

“They are so nice. They talked to me the whole time,” Heck said of the sisters from Thailand. “I was fans of them before and I think I’m bigger fans now.”

That Heck is destined for the pros seems in no doubt. It’s her clear plan, right after graduating from Stanford University where she has committed to study.

“I really hope that this is what I’ll be able to do with my life in a few years after college,” she said. “I can’t wait to be out here full time.”

Heck has another big tournament to play. Disneyland Paris is the venue for the Junior Ryder Cup from Sept. 24-25, before the main event across town later that week.

Then, she can return to classes at St. Agnes Academy in Memphis from her three-week European break.

“After the rounds I’ve been doing school work, and my parents are here,” Heck said. “I’m really enjoying every second of it.”


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