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U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Zhao, 13, Fires First-Round 67 to Lead at Chambers Bay August 8, 2022 | UNIVERSITY PLACE, WASH. By Greg Midland, USGA

Alice Ziyi Zhao showed the poise of a more experienced player in making her way around Chambers Bay on Monday. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

122nd U.S. Women's Amateur Home

What Happened

A common adage is that the golf ball doesn’t know the age of the person hitting it. That certainly applies to the first round of the 122nd U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay, where Alice Ziyi Zhao, the second-youngest player in the field at 13 years/6 months, shot a 6-under-par 67 to take a one-stroke lead.

This is the first USGA championship for Zhao, who was born in Shenyang, China, and now lives in Irvine, Calif. She showed no sign of nerves, however. Starting on No. 10, Zhao carded six birdies over her first nine holes to make the turn in 30. She cooled off a bit after that with an even-par score on her inward nine but still topped a field of 156 that includes USGA champions, Curtis Cup Team members and players who have competed at the highest levels of the game.

“Coming into today I didn’t really have any expectations,” said Zhao. “The course is really beautiful, and I just tried to enjoy my round and not think about shooting low.”

One stroke behind Zhao at 5-under-par 68 is another Chinese-born Irvine resident, Angela (Yilin) Liu, along with Laney Frye of Nicholasville, Ky., and Casey Weidenfeld of Pembroke Pines, Fla. Three more players are tied for fifth place at 4-under 69: Kelsey Bennett and Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, both of Australia, and Brooke Seay, of San Diego, Calif.

Casey Weidenfeld, playing in her second U.S. Women's Amateur, shot a 68, the best round of the afternoon starters. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

Chambers Bay, a municipal course built on the site of a former gravel quarry overlooking Puget Sound, is known for its sloping fairways and challenging green complexes. Many players are seeing it for the first time, and they emphasized the importance of hitting to the proper sides of greens and staying out of the tall, wispy fescue rough.

“Everything went pretty well, including my putting,” said Liu. “I was pretty concerned about the greens because they are very sloped, but it worked out because my approach shots were really good, so I didn’t have to worry too much.”

Frye, a University of Kentucky teammate of defending champion Jensen Castle, put in some extra work leading into the championship.

“It’s amazing. I came out here Thursday so I could walk it on Friday,” she said. “I played 18 on Saturday and 18 on Sunday. I might be dragging later for it, but I love the course. I could play it a million times.”

Castle began her title defense with an even-par 73, good for a tie for 29th. Other notable players who scored par or better today include a number of players who were on the 2021 and/or 2022 USA Curtis Cup Teams: Rachel Kuehn (70), Megha Ganne (71), Latanna Stone (71), Amari Avery (72) and Rachel Heck (73). World No. 6 Tsubasa Kajitani of Japan shot a 1-under 72.

Seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port, who at 60 is the second-oldest player in the field, birdied her last two holes to shoot a 1-over 74, good for a tie for 45th place.

What’s Next

Round 2 will take place on Tuesday, with tee times again beginning at 7 a.m. and continuing through 2:12 p.m. Pacific Time. The low 64 scorers after 36 holes will advance to match play. If a playoff is necessary to determine the last match play spots, it is scheduled to take place on Tuesday evening.

Brooke Seay birdied the par-5 18th hole to finish off a 4-under 68 on Monday. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

Notable

The 6-under 67 turned in by leader Alice Ziyi Zhou on Monday is a women’s course record at Chambers Bay.

Warren Schutte, who became the first international champion of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship when he won in 1992, is serving as caddie for his daughter Abbey this week. The 50-year-old South African now runs his own instructional academy at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, Ariz.

Laney Frye, one of the longest hitters in the field, took advantage of her distance to make two of the seven eagles recorded on Monday on Holes 1 and 13, both par fives that she reached in two shots.

Three players led the field by making eight birdies in Round 1 (Zhou, Rachel Kuehn, Maddison Hinson-Tolchard).

In the previous three U.S. Women’s Amateurs combined, 48 players have shot under par in Round 1 of stroke play; 47 of them advanced to match play. That bodes well for the 28 players who finished under par on Monday.

The 424-yard, par-4 7th played as the most difficult hole in Round 1. There were more double bogeys and others (12 combined) than birdies (7).

Quotable

“My four-ball partner and I, Jillian Bourdage, we’ve been the runners-up two years in a row, so having that experience in USGA championships really helps me in any long tournament.” – Casey Weidenfeld (68), on experience being an advantage

“The more experience, the better. These championships are built up pretty big with the welcome party and all that kind of stuff. This is what you want to win. So there’s extra motivation, extra nerves and extra preparation too.” – Laney Frye (68) on playing in her fourth USGA championship

“I know going into match play it is a whole different game. Even if you’re the 64 seed, you can still win. So I try not to think ahead too much.” – Alice Ziyi Zhao (67), on whether her score today changes her approach for tomorrow

“Even through the practice rounds I just really enjoyed the course and felt like it set up well for my game. I hit it well off the tee, which I think is key around here. I did slip up and make a double on #8 but I managed to get [the strokes] back.” – Kelsey Bennett (68), on her first-round performance

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