U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
LPGA Tour rookie off to another solid start in a major championship July 7, 2011 By Stuart Hall

Cindy Lacrosse (right) and her caddie Mike Berger had reason to celebrate after she posted an even-par 70 in the first round of the 2011 U.S. Women's Open at The Broadmoor. (Chris Keane/USGA)

Colorado Springs, Colo. – For all intents, Cindy Lacrosse was playing for second at the Wegmans LPGA Championship two weeks ago.

Lacrosse may have been in the championship’s final pairing that Sunday afternoon, but she trailed world No. 1 Yani Tseng by five strokes, and Tseng was en route to tying the record for lowest 72-hole score in an LPGA Tour major.

Lacrosse went on to shoot a 5-over 77 to tie for 14th, but in the process she may have gained a level of wisdom that could aid her well at this week’s 66th U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor’s East Course.

The final day I was upset about for a couple of days, but I still realize it was a good week, said Lacrosse of the LPGA Championship, which was only her second major appearance. That's what I can take away from it, that I was three under par in a major.

Suffice to say, Lacrosse might settle for a 3-under score this week and take her chances against the field. Of the previous 10 U.S. Women’s Opens, three under would have won five.

I don't really know what to expect, she said of this week, and I think that's when I play my best, when I keep my expectations low. Just let it happen, good or bad, but hopefully good. I'm just trying to have fun and not put any pressure on myself.

On Friday, Lacrosse closed out an opening-round even-par 71, the first 17 holes of which were played on Thursday before play was suspended due to inclement weather. Her finish at the Wegmans LPGA Championship is clearly a distant memory.

I can be happy about the Wegmans, but I can't focus on it, she said. It's a completely different place, a completely different tournament. Each day is different, so I just go out and play the best that I can.

Two years ago, Lacrosse, 24, of Tampa, Fla., had just turned professional after a collegiate career in which she walked on at the University of Louisville and ultimately became a three-time All-Big East Conference selection, and conference player of the year in 2007. A year ago, in her first full season on the LPGA Futures Tour, Lacrosse was the tour’s leading money winner, claiming three titles and earning rookie of the year honors.

Now, though still extremely early, she has herself in contention at a second consecutive major.

I feel like it's going OK, said Lacrosse of her career arc. Nothing has happened drastically, it's been slowly creeping along. Definitely if I think about where I was two years ago it’s much different, but I have gotten consistently better with my game.

Lacrosse, whose best 2011 finish is a tie for 11th at the ShopRite Classic, said that winning multiple times on the Futures Tour has validated her presence on the LPGA Tour.

It's a good feeling to know for that week you were better than everyone else, she said. Plus, there are a lot of great players on the Futures Tour, so to be able to win out there … definitely gave me some confidence coming out here.

Adding to her comfort level has been the supportive influence of her father, Doug, a former professional who is now attempting to regain his amateur status. Doug Lacrosse tied for 34th in the 2008 U.S. Senior Open on this same East Course.

He walked nine holes with me and my caddie the other day, Lacrosse said. We looked at the greens and talked about the mountain and how that affects putts, so he has been helpful. 

He gave us his pin sheets from a couple of years ago and we worked on those a little bit. Several of [the first-round hole locations] were the same, so there were a few holes where I knew what the break was going to do from where I was and that was helpful. Even if I didn't make the putt, it was a little boost of confidence.

Lacrosse may not be setting any expectations for the rest of the week, but should she be in contention during the final round it would not be completely unexpected.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA websites.