U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Brooks, Gillman First-Round Leaders After Carding 65 May 21, 2016 | Bowling Green, Fla. By Christina Lance, USGA

Kristen Gillman's strong performance led the side to an opening-round 65 at Streamsong Blue on Saturday. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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Battling a stiff afternoon wind, Sierra Brooks, 17, of Orlando, Fla., and Kristen Gillman, 17, of Austin, Texas, shot a blistering 7-under 65 to sit atop the leader board following the first round of stroke play in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, being conducted on 6,216-yard, par-72 Streamsong Blue at Streamsong Resort.

Three sides are one stroke behind at 6-under 66: Florida natives and 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball medalists Kendall Griffin and Athena Yang; Pauline Del Rosario and 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Princess Mary Superal, both of the Philippines; and Evelyn Arguelles and Isabella Fierro, both of Mexico.

The 2016 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 25.

Gillman’s roots showed strong on Saturday, as the native Texan was not fazed by the 10-15 mph winds that buffeted Streamsong Blue. The 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion kept aiming at the hole and made eight birdies. A bogey on the par-4 fourth hole was the only blemish on their scorecard.

“I enjoy playing in the wind because it’s a challenge,” said Gillman, who will enroll at the University of Alabama in the fall. “I take it as a positive, because everyone’s playing in the wind so you just have to learn how to play it.”

Gillman truly shone on the closing two holes. She converted a two-putt birdie on the par-5 17th, then placed her approach on the par-4 18th to 4 feet. Gillman was 8 under on her own ball, with Brooks making a few birdies on the same holes as Gillman.

“All her approach shots were really close and she hit every drive in the fairway,” said Brooks, the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up. “I don’t recall her missing a shot today. It was awesome. I picked a good partner.”

Brooks and Gillman came into the championship with excellent resumes. Beyond their Women’s Amateur success, both players have captured elite amateur and junior titles. Their U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball partnership was born out of successful pairings in the 2014 Junior Ryder Cup and 2015 Junior Solheim Cup matches, not to mention their long-standing friendship.

“We’ve played a lot of match-play events together and we know each other’s games well,” said Brooks, a member of the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team and an incoming freshman at Wake Forest University. “It was a bit of a tough day for me today but I’m going to help her out a lot tomorrow.”

Princess Mary Superal (above) and her partner, Pauline Del Rosario, carded a 6-under 66 on Saturday. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

For the second consecutive year, Griffin, 17, of Sebring, Fla., and Yang, 18, of Winter Haven, Fla., opened the championship with a round of 66. Yang contributed five birdies to their bogey-free round, while Griffin carded a birdie at the par-4 15th.

Yang pointed to her partner’s steady play as the crucial factor in their success.

“She saved me so much by making pars,” said Yang, an incoming freshman at Mississippi State University. “I was a bit more aggressive, and if you’re more aggressive, then you might have more tricky shots coming up. It’s hard making par. She saved my butt.”

“I think we definitely could have gone lower,” added Griffin, who in January won the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Women's Amateur Championship. “It could have been 8, 9 (under) easily. So that gives us confidence, knowing that we could have done that going into tomorrow.”

Del Rosario and Superal, both members of the Philippine National Team, carded seven birdies to only one bogey on Saturday. Like Griffin and Yang, they felt like they had left a few prime opportunities on the golf course.

“We missed some putts, so we’re fairly contented with today, but we can do much better tomorrow,” said Del Rosario, who will attend the University of Kansas in the fall. “The greens were tough so we’re quite happy with our performance on the greens.”

Fierro nearly converted an eagle putt at No. 17 that would have tied them for the lead, but she settled for the side’s seventh birdie of the round. Arguelles and Fierro, longtime friends and members of Mexico’s National Team, were happy with the way they managed the demands of a national championship.

“The pressure makes us play better, so I think we like that,” said Fierro. “We (each) had tough holes and the other (player) was playing really good, so that helped us a lot.”

Four sides are tied for fourth at 5-under 67: Hannah Leiner, 17, of Pompano Beach, Fla., and Latanna Stone, 14, of Riverview, Fla.; Janelle Johnson, 19, of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., and Nichada Satasuk, 20, of Thailand; Ellen Secor, 18, of Portland, Ore., and Jessica Sloot, 18, of Salt Lake City, Utah; and Ashley Fitzgibbons, 17, of Seattle, Wash., and Maya Walton, 18, of Austin, Texas.

Four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi and her partner Dawn Woodard are one of five sides tied for ninth at 4-under 68.

Reigning U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief arrived at Streamsong late Friday evening after missing the cut at the LPGA Tour’s Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va. Her clubs did not make it onto her connecting flight and she finally got them 30 minutes before her 1:24 p.m. tee time. Nevertheless, Greenlief and partner Alexandra Austin sit tied for 19th at 2-under 70.

Mika Liu and Rinko Mitsunaga, who won the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2015, are not in the field this year.

Christina Lance is the manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email her at clance@usga.org.

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