Jaye Marie Green took her lumps, but went down swinging to the end

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Everyone loves a winner -- even ones who finish dead last.

And that's what Jaye Marie Green considers herself -- a winner, even though she finished last.

You see, Green, 16, could have headed home, could have shot out of Oakmont Country Club and back to Boca Raton, Fla., like an overcooked 4-iron after her two-day total of 171, leaving her at 29-over par and, veritably, a million miles from making the cut.

She completed the last of her torturous 36 holes Friday before thunderstorms barraged this place, and subsequently missed the cut.

But there she was Saturday, just before 7 p.m., more than 24 hours after her first appearance at the U.S. Open concluded, walking into Oakmont's renowned clubhouse with her father -- who is also her caddie -- Donnie Green.

So, what were the two of them still doing here?

What was Donnie Green doing carrying a putter over his shoulder, his daughter's shirt wet with perspiration as she walked through the gallery, the leaders of this tournament yards away fighting for a spot atop the big board?

"Just got done hitting balls, practicing," the younger Green said before her father interjected.

"We hit balls for about six-and-a-half hours, I guess it was," Donnie Green said. "She was out there working on some things."

The much-ballyhooed amateur who fell victim to Oakmont's torment doesn't need to work on this: What is to be extracted from a span of time that others would have viewed as an enormous disappointment.

"She came in a pretty strong 16-year-old mind," said her father, a golf teaching professional in Florida. "She's leaving Oakmont with a quality inside her soul that is much different. She's learned so much out here."

So has this family.

"We take our knocks and our wins the same," said Donnie Green, who was joined at Oakmont by his wife Stephanie and his son, Matt, 19. "Did we go down? Yeah. But, in the middle of the fairway, in the second round and she's way out of it, Jaye looks at me and says, 'Dad, what can I do to improve myself?'

"We mended together, right there on that fairway, she bares her soul right there. That's something I'll never forget, my daughter and I going through that moment at Oakmont together."

Jaye Marie Green will never forget the way Brittany Lang, a big-time pro, shot a welcoming smile each time she walked by her.

She will also never forget driving the courtesy Lexus -- "just once or twice, but it was great," she said.

"The experience is unbelievable," the younger Green said. "I was hitting balls next to Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, all the best female players in golf. I was standing there and was like, 'I'm hitting balls next to these people, and I want this to be my life like it is theirs.' "

Granted, she has a long way to go; that 171 next to her name will forever be a permanent denotation of two days she spent in July 2010 at Oakmont.

No matter.

"So what, I shot two of the highest scores I've ever shot? I'm at the toughest course in America," said Green, a close friend of 15-year-old phenom Alexis Thompson. "I'm at the U.S. Open and I gained so much experience. I'm just blessed to be here. So what I had two bad days? I can't take anything bad away from this."

Instead, Green will extract the positives, she will pull out the lessons learned as she, admittedly, watched the other, more-established players go about their games.

"In my head, I think anything is realistic with my game," Green said. "I came here just trying to make the cut, but I ended up coming in dead last.

"That made me say, 'If you really want this, you are going to work harder than you ever have before.' "

She started doing so, before she even left Oakmont.

Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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