SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Lydia Ko stood on the 18th tee during the second round of play Friday at Sebonack Golf Club, deep in discussion with her caddie, when someone tapped her on the shoulder from behind.
It was her mother, Tina, with a bag of snacks.
The 16-year-old from New Zealand travels a long way for many events, but Tina is at her side for every one of them. However, it is the man who is literally at her side – and on her bag – who is helping to make a difference this week. Ko’s caddie, Louis de Kerillis, has been an assistant pro at Sebonack since the course’s opening in 2006.
“He’s been really good,” said Ko Saturday morning, finishing her second round after play was suspended Friday evening due to fog. “He’s been helping me around, because there’s lots of undulation and elevation here. It’s sometimes hard to read the greens and I think that’s where he’s been the most help.”
Ko shot rounds of 72-76 to make the cut with a 4-over 148 total. One of 19 amateurs to begin play in this year’s Open, she held a two-shot lead over the amateur field until a triple-bogey 6 on the third hole Friday afternoon set her back. She was tied for the lead among the six amateurs who made the 36-hole cut with Yueer (Cindy) Feng of China at six over par early in Round 3.
“I just had two or three bad shots that cost me,” she said of her play Friday. “Just one bad shot led to three shots on three … It was tougher than the first day.”
Posting a higher score in the second round was not uncommon – particularly for those players who began their rounds on Friday afternoon – as higher winds, along with a few difficult hole locations, contributed to a marked increase in scores. Shots reaching the green in regulation dropped to 57 percent, down from 62 percent in the first round.
These already difficult conditions were made even tougher by the fog that rolled in late Friday afternoon.
Nelly Korda, 14 and the championship’s youngest player, finished her round just as the fog settled in.
“It was tough,” she said. “I was hoping for a better score, but the conditions were tough. On the last hole I couldn’t even see the pin from the tee box.”
Like Ko, Korda also saw her second-round score increase by four shots at 77. But that was good enough. As the delayed second round came to a close early Saturday morning, Nicole Jeray went 3 over on her final two holes, bringing those players at 6 over par, including Korda, inside the cut line.
And, like Ko, Korda also had family at Sebonack. But in her case, some of them were inside the ropes.
Korda’s sister, Jessica, shot rounds of 70-71 for a 3-under 141 and sits tied for fifth heading into the third round, while the girls’ father, Petr, is on Nelly’s bag. A former professional tennis player and winner of the 1998 Australian Open, Petr had no trouble getting his teenage daughter to listen to his advice.
“He always told me when to be calm and when to go for it,” said Korda of her father. “He’d just say ‘OK, let’s go – birdie this hole.’ So I’d birdie it.”
Korda, Ko and Feng were three of six amateurs to survive the cut. Also advancing were Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, 15, of Canada; Casie Cathrea, 17, of Livermore, Calif.; and Doris Chen, 20, of Bradenton, Fla.
Chen, a junior at the University of Southern California, came to Southampton off a disappointing showing in the final of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in Norman, Okla., last week, where she lost, 10 and 9, to Lauren Diaz-Yi. She had hoped to rebound at the Open, but high winds Friday caused difficulties.
“I think today was much harder because I teed off in the early morning yesterday so there was no wind at all,” said Chen. “Today – I teed off in the afternoon, so the wind picked up much more. It makes the second shot more challenging because on a couple of my shots, I hit it so high that it would blow right or left 10 yards and I would miss on the wrong side of the green.”
Annie Park, 18, of Levittown, N.Y. – and Chen’s teammate at USC – wasn’t as fortunate. Park, who was the local favorite after winning individual honors at the 2013 NCAA Division I Championship, missed the cut at 10-over 154.
Although she is disappointed, Park also appreciated the experience and will use it to improve her game.
“It means a lot [to be here], especially this year and this Open itself because it’s right on Long Island,” said Park. “It’s just an honor for me, just to play. I have a lot more to experience … but just playing against the pros, the best, and just handling pressure, learning how to handle those pressures … But there is still a lot more to learn.”
For the fellow amateurs remaining in the field, this weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open will prove to be the biggest learning experience of their careers.
Stephanie Breslof is the USGA’s summer online/editorial intern. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.