GALLOWAY TWP. _ Marina Alex chose her car, a 2013 Lincoln MKZ, for comfort and spaciousness, both important considerations for someone who spends a significant amount of time engaging in two types of driving.
Her vehicle is crucial to her livelihood - playing golf in hopes of becoming a regular on the LPGA Tour.
The sedan takes her to events on the Symetra Tour, where she is currently fifth on the official money list.
"I can get a lot of stuff in the car which is great," said Marina, a graduate of Wayne Hills High School. "Sometimes, a few of us drive together. Having a car that's roomy really helps."
Of course, Alex's ultimate goal is to be among the ranks of the professionals. The Vanderbilt University graduate gets closer each time she takes to the road and the course.
In early June, Alex, who received a much-appreciated sponsor's exemption, competed in the ShopRite Classic in her home state and played before family and friends, including her mother, Marissa, and brother, Anthony. She shot a 76-76-152 and did not make the cut. Alex, shortly after graduating from college in 2012, made her professional debut at the ShopRite Classic, finishing in a tie for 40th.
Her putting was off at the 2013 Classic. That, Alex felt, was what kept her out of the final round.
"I missed a few putts on the back side," Alex said. "If I make some of them, it's a different story."
Alex's father, Steve, who served as her caddy on the Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, agreed that putting was his daughter's downfall.
"Marina didn't putt well and hasn't for the last few weeks," he said. "It's hard to build momentum when you can't get it going in the right direction. I think putting calms you more than anything. It takes the edge off."
Every other aspect of Alex's game was on despite swirling winds, humidity and higher-than-usual rough.
"I've been driving the ball pretty well," Alex said. "I was solid with my irons and my chipping. I need confidence in my putting. It's definitely a work in progress."
She often made good chips to put herself within five to seven feet of the hole. When it came time to use her putter, Alex struggled.
On the opening day of play at the ShopRite Classic, Alex didn't need her putter on the 18th hole, a par 5. She made what she referred to as a "sweet chip" for a birdie to conclude her round.
Her third shot on the 18th hole went over the green and into the rough and close to the grandstand. Alex couldn't swing so she had to move the ball. The chip was a tough one yet the ball struck the flagstick and dropped into the cup.
Too bad there weren't more holes to play. On her previous hole, Alex sank a 19-foot putt for a birdie.
In the second round, Alex's most regrettable hole was No. 1, her 11th of the day. She pulled the ball into heavy fescue. The lie was impossible so she took an unplayable. Alex's third shot found more fescue. She completed the par-4 hole, of course, but carded a triple bogey.
"I was 1-over when I got to that hole," she said. "It just killed my round. If I didn't triple it, there was a chance of making the cut. It wasn't just that, though. I needed more pars."
Morgan Pressel, excellent with a putter, was in Alex's group on Saturday, June 1. Alex had never met Pressel and was delighted to be paired with her.
"Morgan was a great junior and amateur and has been successful as a pro," Alex said. "She was friendly and nice. It was good to see where my game is at. I like to watch and gather as much information as I can."
Participating in a children's clinic was another highlight for Alex. She was a natural and at ease when speaking into the microphone and took part in several demonstrations.
"The ShopRite is a great tournament. People love it," Alex said. "They come to watch and are supportive of me."
For the last month, Alex, a two-time SEC Player of the Year, has been back on the Symetra Tour. As an LPGA alternate, she relishes opportunities to be in pro tournaments yet prefers the Symetra "because it's easier to play if you know where you're playing plus there's a lot of pressure to perform well." The ShopRite invitations have come early enough and were no problem. If she gains entry as an alternate, she's in a rush to get to that particular city or town.
She's done well on the Symetra Tour this year, notching four top 10s, including a second-place finish at the Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Ind. and a third-place showing at the Delta Dental International in Concord, N.H., where she shot a 66 in the final round. Alex is aiming high because golfers who are top 10 on the money list get a full LPGA card.
"I feel like I'm ready to be out there," Alex said of the LPGA Tour. "Still, I know there's more things to work on. I want to get to the LPGA by next year."
Alex, a resident of Florida, began golfing at the age of 4. Her father, a low-handicap golfer, would teach her and her brother, headed to Florida State, all that he learned from David Glenz, director of golf/designer at Black Oak Golf Club in Long Valley. She also took lessons from Bryan Jones at Crystal Springs.
While on the Futures Tour, Alex often stays in private housing to save money. Having her dad carry her bag also is cost efficient as caddies can cost as much as $1,000 per week, mainly on the LPGA Tour. Alex estimates that the cost of being on the pro tour is $55,000 per year.
"That's what I want," Alex said. "I realized I could be successful at golf when I was in college. I want to make a career out of it and become as good as I can."
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