Senior staff writer
After finishing fifth in the Girls Junior PGA Championship, Greenwood’s Erica Shepherd defends her U.S. Girls Junior National title this week in California. Shepherd, a senior at Center Grove High School, fired an impressive 15-under-par 273 in Lexington, Ky., last week, nine strokes behind record-setting champion Yealimi Noh of California.
Shepherd trailed Noh 131-132 after two rounds but fell behind by nine after the third round. Shepherd is a candidate for the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team that plays against a European team Sept 24 and 25 in Paris. Noh earned an automatic berth on the squad by winning the junior PGA tourney.
“For the first time ever, I took the driver out of play and hit my 3-wood all day off the tee,” Shepherd said after the first round. “Heading into this tournament I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself with the Junior Ryder Cup on the line and what this event means … I’ve always liked having the pressure on me.”
Shepherd, a southpaw, won last year's Girl Junior by defeating Jennifer Chang 3 and 2 in Missouri after overcoming an emotional semifinal round triumph on a 1-stroke penalty against Elizabeth Moon of Arkansas. With back-to-back titles she would become only the fourth to win successive Girls Junior titles. Shepherd is expected to tee off in the qualifying round next Monday in the LPGA Indy Women in Tech Championship at Brickyard Crossing. She made the 36-hole cut against the pros last year. The Duke University commit will be accompanied by her coach Brent Nicoson of the University of Indianapolis. Her home course is Dye’s Walk Country Club on State Road 135 in Greenwood.
In an interview after she won the 2017 junior championship, Nicoson said, “She likes the whole process; she wants to figure out how to get better all the time – it’s not just golf only, it’s the workouts, the mental side and the whole process. That’s what makes her so successful.”
At 17, Shepherd’s accomplishments on the links are outstanding. Two years ago she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open under a new exemption for junior golfers. She has competed in the Wyndham Cup, Junior Solheim Cup and World Junior Girls championships. Shepherd has close ties with two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Betsy King, whom she caddied for in the 2017 Senior LPGA Championship.
She is the daughter of Matt and Jerlyn Shepherd. Her brother, Ethan, is a sophomore on the Indiana University golf team and averaged 75.83 per round last season. He was a member of the 2017 state championship team at Center Grove and was fourth individually in state. He also finished fourth in the Indiana State Amateur. (Note: PGA of America contributed to this article.)