U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Girls’ Junior Runner-Up Pano Leads Women's Amateur August 4, 2018 | Kingston Springs, Tenn. By David Shefter, USGA

Alexa Pano, fresh off her runner-up finish in the U.S. Girls' Junior, carded a 5-under 66 on Monday at The G.C. of Tennessee. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

118th U.S. Women’s Amateur | #USWomensAm
The Golf Club of Tennessee, Kingston Springs, Tenn.
First Round, Stroke Play, Monday, Aug. 6 | Par 71, 6,347 yards
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What Happened

For a Floridian such as Alexa Pano, playing in stifling heat and humidity is par for the course.

So, when the mercury reached 93 degrees with a Heat Index of 98 on Monday at The Golf Club of Tennessee, Pano, 13, of Lake Worth, Fla., fresh off a runner-up finish in the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago, wasn’t bothered. The two-time Drive, Chip & Putt age-group champion posted a 5-under 66 for a one-stroke lead.

Pano registered seven birdies – four on the inward nine – against two bogeys, with her longest putt a 15-footer on the par-3 14th hole.

Asked if she figured something out on the second nine, Pano said she was consistent the entire round outside of a couple of poor drives on Nos. 1-3 – she bogeyed the par-4 second hole – and a mistake with her tee shot on the par-3 eighth.

“I think I got to 2 under on the front [nine] and then just had one really stupid bogey [on No. 8] and missed two birdie opportunities,” said Pano. “But it was kind of just consistent the whole day from fairway to green. I was putting it inside of 10 feet consistently, and my putting was clutch.”

Despite the stifling heat, most players found the conditions ripe for scoring. Sixty players posted rounds of even par or better.

Seven players posted 4-under 67s, including UCLA sophomore Patty Tavatanakit, 18, of Thailand, the low amateur in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open (T-5), and Arizona State University junior and two-time Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup competitor Olivia Mehaffey, 20, of Northern Ireland.

Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif., a two-time U.S. Women’s Open qualifier, is among the large group at 68, along with 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Albane Valenzuela, 20, of Switzerland. 

The second and final round of stroke play is scheduled for Tuesday, after which the field will be trimmed to the low 64 scorers for match play, which begins on Wednesday. To win the title, a competitor must win six matches, including Sunday’s 36-hole final. The match-play portion of the competition will be broadcast live by FS1 (FS2 on Saturday) with usga.org providing live streaming of Thursday’s Round-of-32 matches and the morning 18 of the championship match.

Notable

  • Yealimi Noh, 17, of Concord, Calif., who won last month’s U.S. Girls’ Junior as part of a stretch of three consecutive titles, opened with a 1-under 70.

  • University of Alabama All-American and 2018 USA Curtis Cup competitor Kristen Gillman, 20, of Austin, Texas, the only U.S. Women’s Amateur champion (2014) in the field, also carded a 70.

  • The other four members of the victorious 2018 USA Curtis Cup Team in the field posted the following scores: Lucy Li (68); Lauren Stephenson (69); Lilia Vu (71) and Jennifer Kupcho (70).

  • Avery Zweig, 11, of McKinney, Texas, the youngest competitor in the field, shot a 70. Zweig, a two-time Drive, Chip & Putt finalist, is competing in her third USGA championship this year.

  • Seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port, of St. Louis, at 56 the oldest player in the field by one month over Martha Leach, carded an even-par 71 and is in position to make the match-play cut.    

 

Quotable

Alexa Pano, 13, of Lake Worth, Fla. (5-under 66) on the state of her game coming off the runner-up finish in the U.S. Girls’ Junior and the Wyndham Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event conducted by the American Junior Golf Association:

“Yeah, definitely confidence from both of those events. I’m feeling pretty good about my match-play game right now, and stroke play felt pretty good today. As long as I just keep doing what I did today.”

Bohyun Kim, 15, of the Republic of Korea (4-under 67) on keeping cool in the hot and humid conditions:

“Just try and stay in the shade as much as possible and drink lots of water and just don’t overheat yourself.”

Lucy Li, 15, of Redwood Shores, Calif. (3-under 68) on the course conditions:

“It was playing really receptive. The greens are really soft, so you could really attack the pins out there. It was getting a little bumpy at the end for the putts, so there were a few spike marks out there, but other than that, it’s in really good shape.”

Albane Valenzuela, 20, of Switzerland (3-under 68) on her motivation after finishing as the runner-up last year at San Diego Country Club:

“You know, it was just another tournament. Match play, anything can happen, and I think I just come into this week having fun. I think last year I made a good run at this tournament. Runner-up, it’s something everyone would like to take, so now I have nothing to lose. I just come here, play every round one at a time.”

Valenzuela, on how much she has played this summer to prepare for the U.S. Women’s Amateur:

“I’ve only played [last month’s] Palmer Cup [in France]. Yeah, [our family] moved from Switzerland to the Bahamas. It was just a big move of the family, so I just took time to do all that stuff. I love it. There’s so many great players that go there (Albany Golf Club). I was very fortunate the other day to have seen Justin Rose chipping right in front of me. [Reigning Open champion Francesco] Molinari was there as well. It’s just a very special place where you get to practice in some very good conditions and see amazing players.”

Ellen Port, 56, of St. Louis, Mo., on shooting even-par 71:

“I had a great warmup. I would have won the tournament on my warmup. So then when I go to the course, it’s just a little bit different … I just felt really good with my irons, and I played a really good second nine (1-under 35). I had a 10-foot birdie putt on 1. I got a nice up-and-down on 2, and then I had an 8-foot birdie putt on the next one. I had a lot of birdie opportunities, and so for me to be patient and not press [is key for me].”

Port on having the chance to make the match-play cut:

“That’s what everybody is here for. I’m not thinking about making or missing the cut. I’m just trying to slow down my backswing. The furthest thing from my mind is making a cut, even if I was the best player in the field or if I shot 64. I still would not be thinking anything other than, OK, go home, and I’ve got to make a good swing on that first tee [on Tuesday].”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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