Olympia Fields, Ill. – Jisoo Keel, Kaitlin Park and Mariko Tumangan sit atop the leader board midway through the first round of stroke-play qualifying at the 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, being conducted at the 6,403-yard, par-72 South Course at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club.
The Olympia Fields course found itself firming up in the grasp of a heat wave that is crippling the heart of the country. With heat indices in the mid 90s and stifling humidity, low scores were at a premium during the morning wave, where no players recorded a sub-par round.
My hands got a little slippery at the end, so I had to use a towel to dry myself off, said Keel, whose three bogeys and three birdies gave her an even-par 72 to tie with Park and Tumangan.
Keel, a 15-year-old Canadian, opened quick, carding two birdies in her first four holes. However, her game soon faltered and three bogeys over a five-hole stretch dropped her to one over for most of her inward nine.
Keel pointed to her birdie on the par-5 seventh as a clutch moment, an 8-foot putt that pulled her back to even par and into a tie for the lead.
I really needed that, because I hadn’t had a birdie in a while, said Keel, who recently received an Order of Merit exemption into the 2011 CN Canadian Women’s Open. I needed that boost for the last few holes. I hit it good and solid.
Unlike Keel, Tumangan was seemingly the picture of consistency. The 17-year-old from San Jose, Calif., opened with a birdie on the par-4 10th hole, her first hole of the day. After evening her score with a bogey on par-4 17th, the Stanford commitment saved her share of the lead with a clutch putt on her final hole, the par-4 ninth.
I hit a pretty good drive and I chunked my eight iron, said Tumangan, a five-time Girls’ Junior competitor. It was supposed to go about 140 [yards] and it went about 110. I chipped it onto the green and I had a 15-foot left-to-right putt and I sunk it. That was pretty good.
Park also cruised through the morning’s brutal weather to even-par 72.
The whole day today was just really consistent, said Park, 17, of Tustin Ranch, Calif. I had all these pars, and I had one bogey on the front and I finished off with a birdie. My dad clapped so much on the last hole because he was like, ‘When is this birdie going to come!’
Five players are one stroke behind at 1-over 73, including 2011 U.S. Women’s Open competitors Mariel Galdiano, 13, of Pearl City, Hawaii, and Gabriella Then, 15, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Seventeen-year-old Karen Chung of Livingston, N.J., the 2008 Girls’ Junior runner-up, carded five bogeys for a 5-over 77.
Seventy-two players have afternoon starting times, including 2010 Girls’ Junior runner-up Katelyn Dambaugh and 2010 quarterfinalist Stephanie Liu.
The 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior will continue with the second round of
stroke-play qualifying on Tuesday. Following stroke play, the 156-player field
will be trimmed to 64 for match play, with the championship scheduled to be
decided in a 36-hole final on Saturday.
The U.S. Girls’ Junior is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Christina Lance is a coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. Email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.