Abdulghany’s cool, Takada’s calm translate to women’s Four-Ball semis

 

Alyaa Abdulghany had never played in front of television cameras, but that all changed May 12 as part of her U.S. Golf Association debut. She’s gotten used to the crowds in this sport, and put on a show next to partner Ellen Takada on the way to the semifinals of the inaugural U.S. Women’s Four-Ball.

But Abdulghany still can’t imagine a crowd observing her second hobby – electric guitar. Abdulghany, 16, isn’t in a band and rarely plays for anyone but herself. For now, she’s working on perfecting covers – mostly ACDC – and hasn’t ventured into writing her own music.

"I have no rhythm," Abdulghany said. "I just feel like I would fail."

This USGA Championship run could be the leap of faith she needs. Alongside 17-year-old Takada this week, Abdulghany has shone. It’s the brilliant part of this inaugural Women’s Four-Ball. There are lots of opposites-attract relationships in the field. Abdulghany-Takada is a great example.

Abdulghany emits a very cool vibe, while Takada doesn’t do anything without a friendly smile on her face.

"We kind of concentrate on our own game," said Abdulghany, the more outspoken of the two.

Abdulghany says she’s "YOLOing it" this week (an acronym born from rap lyrics that stands for "you only live once") while Takada is getting an early look at an upcoming college career in the Northwest.

Takada has signed to play for Washington beginning in 2016, but Abdulghany remains undecided. Her stock should only rise after this week at Bandon.

On Tuesday morning, Abdulghany and Takada knocked off Veronica Joels and Morgan Goldstein in dramatic fashion on the 18th, and then ousted stroke-play medalists Kendall Griffin and Athena Yang in the afternoon. Takada and Abdulghany like to say that the only thing they have in common is growing up outside the U.S.

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Takada was born in Irvine, Calif., before her family relocated to Japan for most of her childhood. The Takadas moved back to California two years ago, after Takada had entered high school.

Takada grew up speaking Japanese, and is still perfecting parts of her English. A smile that big translates in any language, and her face nearly split in two after she made the winning 5-footer on No. 18 in the morning match.

"That putt was really special for me," she said.

Even if it isn’t displayed in her demeanor, one would assume there’s a killer instinct buried somewhere inside Takada, given her good genes. Her mother Maya was an Olympic tennis player who competed for Japan in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Maya also played Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the French Open before retiring in 1993 and marrying the next year.

Fittingly, Maya had a soft spot for doubles.

Takada dabbled in tennis as a kid, but eventually chose golf.

"I liked golf better," said Takada, "and I didn’t like tennis that much."

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As for Abdulghany, a childhood spent playing indoor soccer and swimming eventually turned to golf out of sheer curiosity. Abdulghany remembers the day her parents drove her by a golf course when she was not quite 8 and didn’t understand what it was. That led to a group golf lesson, which eventually translated to a passion that leaves time for little else, including music. If Abdulghany really needs a break from the game, she’ll hop on her skateboard and cruise around the block.

Abdulghany was born in Malaysia, but moved to the U.S. at a young age when her father’s job as a wifi consultant for AT&T brought the family back. Her mother Rohaya is a fitness instructor, which has come in handy for Abdulghany this week at Pacific Dunes, where 36-hole days are not easy. Her legs ached at the end of the morning match, but she felt rejuvenated when she saw her partner drain the winning putt them pump her fist vigorously.

"I was doing terrible the last couple holes in the morning," Abdulghany said. "I wasn’t chipping well and my putting just wasn’t there, and I was just like, ‘Oh, my God.’ Good thing I had Ellen here."

It was a bright idea from Rohaya that got these two partnered in the first place. Both work with Alan Ochiai out of Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine, Calif., and knowing her daughter’s love for match play, Rohaya suggested Alyaa partner with Takada and try it out.

Ochiai put the partnership most succinctly early week after watching his students advance to the match-play bracket: "They don’t screw up on the same holes."

In fact, they don’t screw up at very much at all.