In their pre-collegiate golf careers, Megan Propeck and Julia Misemer regularly challenged each other at events like the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and the North and South Women’s Amateur Championship.
Their respectful competition and shared goals of playing major college golf, Propeck said, helped spur the caliber of success that got them noticed on the national level despite Kansas City not necessarily being a sizzling golf hotbed.
More recently, Propeck, now a sophomore at Virginia, and Misemer, a freshman at Arizona, were paired together for the first round of the NCAA Championships in May in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The former KC-area prep standouts, from Notre Dame de Sion and Blue Valley West, respectively, now find themselves in the same field again after qualifying for the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open from July 6-9 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.
“It’s crazy that we’re both at big time Power Five conference schools and totally different places,” Propeck said. “But getting to play with each other, especially at Grayhawk in the national championship, was just funny and quite a coincidence since we had been playing together for so long and this was both of our goals to play college golf. It was definitely good growing up having (Misemer) there.”
Though their college careers have taken them to different corridors of the country to continue their development, there’s mutual excitement about the rare opportunity to represent their home and continue chasing their professional golf aspirations.
Both lessons retained from their high school careers and new insights obtained from college will prove valuable as they compete against a mix of 154 fellow amateurs and LPGA contemporaries.
During her days at Notre Dame de Sion, Propeck often played prep courses that were shorter and easier than what she encountered on the travel circuit, leading to lofty expectations of lower scores. To avoid fixation on the final outcome, the 2020 Kenneth Smith Award winner learned as a senior to set incremental goals every three to six holes; she still practices that on the course.
Misemer, meanwhile, said her greatest takeaway from her Blue Valley West career, which included four individual state championships, is simply “just to stay present and appreciate what you’re doing right then and there, and just think about where you’re at.”
That appreciation is derived from the work it took to qualify for the Open, which wasn’t easy for either golfer. Propeck tried to qualify last year and came up short, while Misemer went out five times before finally qualifying.
In their first attempts, the duo approached the qualifiers as quality practice, but their college experiences have added elements to their game that helped them break through this time.
Misemer specifically chose Arizona because she knew it would be difficult to earn starts as a freshman, and the effort she put into cracking the lineup has paid dividends. She fired a six-under 66 in the first round of her qualifier at Gainey Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, and no one could catch her on Day 2 as she finished with an eight-under 136.
“Silly mistakes, it happens less I’ve noticed, or when I make a mistake, I am starting to be able to recover from them,” Misemer said of what she’s worked on at Arizona. “And I’m making a lot more birdies. And so I’ve definitely also gained a lot of distance and strength while being at college, and so that has kind of helped me, I would say, gain a little bit of an advantage in some of our tournaments and in my game just because I’m able to hit shorter clubs on the green.”
Propeck also noted improved strength, in addition to the ways the team-oriented college game increased her love for the sport and helped her understand her strengths and weaknesses.
But more than anything, her mentality has been refined as a Cavalier. She plays with her mind set on winning, rather than worrying about what others are scoring.
That was evident during her qualifier at The Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield, Colorado. In prior preparation, her mother Sherrie reminded her that almost four years to the date she had displayed a certain confidence while securing her first American Junior Golf Association victory at the Hale Irwin Colorado Junior tournament less than 10 miles south in Westminster.
Spurred by that reminder, she attacked the Broadlands with the same confidence, carding a 70 in both rounds and finishing at four-under 140.
“Just the way I approach the game, the way I am on the course, I think that’ll be a big thing,” Propeck said, “especially at Pebble Beach when the pressure will be so high and there’s a lot of distractions, I would say, outside of just playing the golf course.”
All important, too, is researching how Pebble Beach was played by previous winners, which both have already begun.
“It’s going to be tough to hit greens out there,” Propeck said. The rough’s going to be thick. And getting up and down is a big thing. I know Gary Woodland, I think, was 80% for up-and-down percentage when he won the U.S. Open there (in 2019). So for me, looking at my stats and seeing where those gaps are compared to the people that have played well at Pebble Beach ... will be how I structure my practice here.”
On the cusp of one of their most significant competitions yet, Propeck and Misemer are excited about the mentorship opportunities that will come from playing with professionals, as well as teeing it up together in the same event once again.
“I qualified a few days before her, and when I saw that she did as well, I was ecstatic,” Misemer said. “We live in the same county, and we’re both amateurs who qualified for the U.S. Open. It’s pretty rare.”