Daly City, Calif. – USGA newcomer Kathleen Gallagher, 15, of Greenwood, Miss., took the early first-round lead with a 1-over-par 73 on a chilly Monday at the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, being conducted at the 6,291-yard, par-72 Lake Merced Golf Club.
Gallagher, the daughter of PGA Tour player Jim Gallagher Jr. and former LPGA Tour player Cissye Gallagher, became the third member of the family to qualify for a USGA championship.
With temperatures hovering in the 50s and winds gusting as high as 23 miles per hour, Gallagher managed three birdies against four bogeys on a golf course where the scoring average through the morning wave was nearly 82.
“It was chilly and windy for sure,” said Gallagher. “I just had to play a lot of clubs different because of the wind and the slope. [The course is] real slopey … uphill and downhill.”
With her older brother Thomas on the bag and mom watching from the gallery, Gallagher played Lake Merced like a seasoned pro. However, taking the early lead was far beyond her expectations.
“I was just real excited about being here,” said Gallagher, the junior medalist at the 2011 Mississippi Women’s Golf Association’s State Amateur Championship. “I played really well in my qualifier and I was excited. I’ve been trying to play in this thing for about two years and this year was good.”
Canadian Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, 14, arrived at Lake Merced fresh off a victory last week at the Investors Group Ontario Junior Girls’ Championship. She carded three birdies and five bogeys en route to a 2-over 74 and sole possession of second.
“It was a great round,” said Henderson, a member of Team Canada’s Development Team. “I could have made a few shots, but I also made up a few. I just tried to hit fairways, hit greens and do my best.”
Annie Park, 17, of Levittown, N.Y., and Mikayla Harmon, 17, of Gilbert, Ariz., both carded 3-over 75s to tie for third following the morning wave. Harmon’s round included the morning’s only eagle, a 3 on the par-5, 447-yard 14th hole.
Seventy-eight players had afternoon starting times, including 2011 Girls’ Junior champion Ariya Jutanugarn, 2010 runner-up Katelyn Dambaugh, 2008 runner-up Karen Chung and world No. 1 amateur Lydia Ko.
The 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior will continue with the second round of stroke-play qualifying on Tuesday. Following stroke play, the 156-player field will be trimmed to 64 for match play that begins on Wednesday and ends Saturday with a 36-hole final.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Christina Lance is a coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. Email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.