NORMAN, Okla. – The dominance of the University of Southern California women’s golf team continued in Oklahoma on Monday.
After taking last month’s NCAA Women’s Golf Division I Championship, Trojan teammates Doris Chen and Annie Park returned rounds of 4-under 68 and sit atop the leader board following the first round of the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship being conducted at the 6,351-yard, par-72 Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club.
Casey Danielson, Mariel Galdiano and Anne-Catherine Tanguay sit one stroke back at 3-under 69, followed by Grace Na, Rika Park, Kelly Shon and Julie Yang at 2-under 70.
The 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Saturday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Park recorded five birdies against one bogey on the Perry Maxwell-designed layout to continue her astounding recent success. After sweeping the three NCAA postseason individual titles (Pac-12 Championship, NCAA West Regional and the NCAA National Championship), the 18-year-old Park says that she’s never played better golf. However, fault can be found in even near perfection.
“My putting was pretty good,” said Park, a Levittown, N.Y., native who reached the semifinals and quarterfinals of the 2011 and 2012 Women’s Amateur Public Links, respectively. “I was struggling with my shots. I just couldn't hit it straight. But when I did, I made my putts.”
Park found the transition from high school to college to be a renewing experience, something that is plainly clear in her record since joining the USC team for the spring semester.
“I think it was a new beginning for me and it worked out pretty well,” said Park, who will compete in next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
Chen, the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, matched Park’s scorecard of five birdies and one bogey, hers coming at the par-3 15th. However, in stark contrast to her teammate, the soft-spoken 20-year-old from Bradenton, Fla., considered Monday’s round to be a breakthrough in what she called a year-long struggle with her putter.
“Before school started last year, I took a long break and unfortunately I pretty much did not do my homework and just forgot everything about golf,” said Chen, who will also travel to Long Island next week for the Women’s Open. “I struggled early in the year and just tried to get my game back.”
Today’s 68 was better than any of Chen’s rounds in the 2012-13 season, following her first-round 69 at last October’s Stanford Intercollegiate. She pointed to a 30-foot birdie putt that she drained on the par-4 fourth hole as a sparking point for her round.
“I know from the mistakes I made at nationals, I just knew that I needed to get my putting done, get it improved,” said Chen.
The USC dominance did not stop at Chen and Park. Defending champion Kyung Kim, the third member of the USC golf team in the field, began her title defense with an even-par 72. The fourth USC connection, incoming freshman and 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior runner-up Karen Chung, sits at 1-under 71.
Tanguay, a 22-year-old Quebec native, came into the championship with a marked advantage over most of the field; as a rising senior at the University of Oklahoma, Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club is her home course. Tanguay is one of three members of the OU women’s golf team to make the championship, joining 2012 NCAA women’s golf champion Chirapat Jao-Javanil and fellow Canadian Taylor Schmidt.
“Playing on my home course is such a good feeling,” said Tanguay. “I've always had good performances on this golf course, so I was not really expecting anything less.”
Tanguay’s comfort showed on her scorecard, the only blemish being a bogey on the par-4 11th hole. The morning’s strong winds, a remnant of last night’s storm, allowed Tanguay to use her familiarity with the course to her advantage.
“This north wind that just came (on the) back side, it makes the golf course play a little bit harder,” said Tanguay, whose lone collegiate victory came at the 2011 Susie Maxwell Berning Classic. “It makes me more confident and I know which holes I can take advantage of.”
Danielson, 18, of Osceola, Wis., came to Oklahoma straight off a top-10 finish at last week’s AJGA Rolex Girls Junior Championship. She briefly took a solo lead at four under with a birdie at the par-3 sixth hole, but a bogey-birdie-bogey finish dropped her into to a tie with Tanguay.
“The last few holes were a struggle,” said Danielson, who will attend Stanford University in the fall. “(The wind) seemed to pick up and played more into us on the last four holes.”
While Danielson had not played the course prior to arriving on Saturday, she did have some information on the layout. Her sister/caddie, Lindsay, played several rounds at Jimmie Austin as a member of the University of Wisconsin golf team from 2009-2013.
“It helps to have her on the bag because she knows where to land it and where to hit the drives,” said Danielson, a quarterfinalist at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Jao-Javanil returned an even-par 72 on her home course. Emily Tubert, the 2010 champion, struggled with three bogeys and a double bogey on the outward nine and carded a 5-over 77. Also among those at 77 is 10-year-old Lucy Li, the second-youngest competitor in championship history.
Christina Lance is the assistant manager of communications for the USGA. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.