Savannah, Ga. – Bolstered by a 1-over-par 73 from Dawn Woodard, South Carolina grabbed a six-stroke lead midway through Tuesday’s first round of the 2011 USGA Women’s State Team Championship being conducted at the 6,067-yard, par-72 Palmetto Course at The Landings Club.
South Carolina, which also received a 4-over 76 from 38-year-old Lea Venable of Simpsonville in the 3-count-2 format, posted an 18-hole team score of 5-over 149.
California – buoyed by a 74 from 48-year-old Lynne Cowan of Davis – and New Jersey each shot 11-over 155, while past champions Alabama (1997) and Pennsylvania (1995) each carded 157.
Defending champion Georgia was one 27 teams with an afternoon starting time. A total of 51 teams, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are competing this week in the biennial event. New Hampshire was the only state not to field a team.
Woodard, a 37-year-old from Greer, S.C., had the lowest score among the morning wave. She was one under par for the day after chipping in for birdie at the par-4 13th hole, but back-to-back bogeys at 15 and 16, dropped her out of red figures. She finished with two birdies and three bogeys.
“The par 3 (No. 15) was playing downwind and I made a little bogey there,” said Woodard, who helped South Carolina finish fifth two years ago at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind. “I hit a little 9-iron … and made a poor chip. I didn’t get it up and down.
“I putted extremely well. Even though I didn’t make a lot of birdies, if I didn’t get it close on the first [putt], the 4- and 6-footers coming back … I think I [only] missed one all day.”
Both Woodard and Venable made the turn at even par, but Woodard, the team’s anchor player, said she had no idea how her teammates were playing. Lea Anne Brown, 52, of Mt. Pleasant, had a none-scoring 87. Much like a college competition, players must rely on word of mouth or coaches to get information.
“I don’t want to know,” said Woodard, who was the stroke-play medalist at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. “It doesn’t matter. I would just prefer to play my own game. I am trying to play the best that I can play no matter what everyone else is doing.
“I felt very comfortable on [the course] from day one. I love that the greens are fast, good bermuda[grass] greens. I didn’t have any complaints going in and I still don’t have any complaints.”
The word from some players after the two practice rounds was that the inward nine played more difficult than the outward nine, especially the two holes near the marsh (14 and 15). The three finishing par 4s also are challenge.
Don’t tell that to the three teenagers from New Jersey. Starting at the 10th hole, Cindy Ha, Scotland Preston and Kuriko Tsukiyama were a combined one under par through nine holes.
But all three struggled coming home. Ha, a 15-year-old from Demarest, wound up with a team-best 77, including a 41 on her second nine. Tsukiyama, 15, of West New York, who last year at 14 became the youngest winner of the New Jersey Women’s Amateur, added a 78, with a 42 on the outward nine.
Reigning New Jersey Women’s Amateur champion Scotland Preston, 17, of Mountainside, had the best start with a 1-under 35 and closed with a 45 for a non-scoring 80.
“We totally messed up on the front nine, which was our back nine,” said Ha. “I don’t know why we did that. After the [first] nine, I thought we would do really well. But it’s not over until you finish 18 holes.
“For me, it was my putting. I think it was my lack of concentration.”
Ha said her team finally got used to the playing conditions – they don’t play on bermudagrass in New Jersey – during the two practice rounds, which gave the group some confidence even though the Garden State has not finished better than 18th in the eight previous Women’s State Teams. But with team comprised of the past two New Jersey Women’s Amateur champions (Tsukiyama and Preston) and Ha, who is no stranger to USGA events, having competed in the last two U.S. Girls’ Juniors and reaching the round of 16 at this year’s Women’s Amateur, the team had high expectations.
“I think we still do have a chance,” said Ha. “It will be better tomorrow. I hope it’s better.”
David Shefter is a USGA senior staff writer. E-mail him at email@example.com.