The sides of Robynn Ree and Hannah O’Sullivan, and Athena Yang and Kendall Griffin, carded 6-under 66s on the par-72 Pacific Dunes to hold a one-stroke lead following the first round of stroke-play qualifying in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
Ree, 18, of Redondo Beach, Calif., and O’Sullivan, 16, of Chandler, Ariz., returned a sterling card of seven birdies – including four straight on Nos. 3-6 – along with one bogey on the picturesque oceanside course.
“When one of us didn’t hit a very good shot, the other would hit a better shot,” said Ree, who will be a freshman at the University of Southern California this fall. “We balanced each other out throughout the round.”
“We had some chances we missed – some holes we should have made birdie on. But overall we played pretty solid,” added O’Sullivan, who in February became the first amateur to win a Symetra Tour event since 1999, and the youngest since 1995. “It’s an incredible experience to be part of the first Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Hopefully, we’re a part of history.”
Floridians Yang, 17, of Winter Haven, and Griffin, 16, of Sebring, went to the final hole alone atop the leader board at 7 under par, with an eagle from Griffin at the par-5 fourth and five birdies on their card. But Yang’s par attempt just missed the hole, dropping them into a tie for the lead with Ree and O’Sullivan.
“I had a good lie on my second shot, but for some odd reason the ball drew too much,” said Yang, who has committed to Mississippi State University for 2016. “The third shot, I was in a really awkward lie and it landed in the middle and rolled all the way off the green.”
“She was pretty clutch today,” said Griffin of her teammate. “She had some good putting and really saved a lot of holes.”
Two sides sit one stroke behind the leaders at 5-under 67. Brooke McDougald, 18, of The Woodlands, Texas, and Courtney Dow, 17, of Frisco, Texas, also bogeyed No. 18 for the lone blemish of their round. Dow pointed to the play of her friend of 10 years, who converted all six of the side’s birdies, as the key component of their round.
“I let Brooke be aggressive and let Brooke run away with it, take it low,” said Dow, who took medalist honors with McDougald at the championship’s first qualifier on Aug. 15, 2014. “I did a good job when I was struggling, making sure she had opportunities to keep playing well and could stay aggressive.”
“I’ve been hitting the ball really well recently,” said McDougald, who will attend Texas Christian University in the fall. “Today, I was really excited because the putts started to fall.”
Joining McDougald and Dow at 5 under are Lucy Li, 12, of Redwood City, Calif., and Kathleen Scavo, 17, of Benicia, Calif. Li and Scavo opened with a bogey at the par-4 first hole, but quickly moved up the leader board with seven birdies against one additional bogey.
The pair competed in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifier at Half Moon Bay (Calif.) Golf Links. Li, then 11, won the qualifier by nine strokes over Scavo to become the youngest Women’s Open qualifier in history. More importantly, a friendship and future partnership was cemented that week at Pinehurst.
“Our games complement each other,” said Scavo, who will return to the Beaver State in August when she enrolls at the University of Oregon in Eugene. “We have similar distances and our games match up well together.”
The leaders took full advantage of the prime playing conditions that came with their morning tee times. Those who teed off early enjoyed calm, overcast conditions; once the clouds broke, the wind picked up with gusts up to 18 mph. Scavo and Li, who teed off at 10:36 a.m., are one of only two sides in the top 10 who started after 10 a.m.
“I’m from north of Dallas so we get some wind, but not like this,” said Dow, who added that the conditions reminded her of a 2008 trip she made to Scotland with McDougald. “This was about a three-club wind today and I’m used about a one-and-a-half-club wind.”
Adding to today’s history was Marie Bos, of New York, N.Y., who recorded the first ace of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Her 7-wood on the par-3 10th hit the right front of the green from 154 yards and rolled down a ridge into the hole.
“I swung easy, it released and went right in,” said Bos, a senior market research manager for Golf Digest who is teamed with fellow Manhattan resident Courtney Tincher.
Tincher, who is playing on a broken left foot, immediately knew her teammate’s shot was worth watching. “The minute it hit the ground, it was tracking,” she said. “We just ran toward each other and had a big hug.”
Three USGA champions and their partners returned solid rounds on Saturday. Amber Marsh Elliott, the 2004 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, and her partner Katie Miller are tied for eighth at 3-under 69. Mina Hardin, who won the 2010 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, and her partner Caryn Wilson are at 2-under 70. Four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi and her partner Dawn Woodard survived an up-and-down day of five birdies and five bogeys to finish in a tie for 18th at even par.
The 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by five rounds of match play. The championship is scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Wednesday, May 13, which will air live on Fox Sports 1.
Christina Lance is the manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email her at email@example.com.