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Monday, August 1, 2016

Kan giving it her best shot as U.S. Women's Amateur at Rolling Green tees off

   SPRINGFIELD – Aurora Kan, one of the finest scholastic golfers Delaware County has ever produced, hadn’t played much competitive golf since completing an outstanding four-year run at Purdue in the spring of 2015.
   So she could be forgiven for needing a few holes to find her groove when teeing it up on a very big stage, the opening round of the 116th U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club Monday.
Starting on the back nine at the 6,259-yard, par-71 William Flynn gem, Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion as a senior at Chichester, came out of the gate with bogeys at 10, 11 and 12.
   She missed the par-3 10th in the bunker on the left and couldn’t find the green at 11 or 12 after driving the ball in the rough off the tee. Rolling Green is not very forgiving when it comes to those kinds of mistakes.
   “I was tense,” Kan said after going even-par the rest of the way for a 3-over 74 that left her in a 20-player logjam tied for 67th. “I haven’t played that much competitive golf. And I was really looking forward to playing in this, so close to home.”
   When Kan drilled a 5-iron five feet away at the par-4 13th and confidently holed the birdie putt, she found some solid footing.
   “That really helped,” said Kan, who reached match play in the 2013 Women’s Amateur at the Country Club of Charleston. “That really got me going.”
   She added a bogey at the tough, par-3 14th to fall back to 3-over, but then hit another tracer at the par-3 16th to four feet for a birdie. She finished the back nine at Rolling Green with a flourish when a 30-foot bomb found the bottom of the cup, enabling her to make the turn at 1-over.
   “I was really hoping to make birdies on both the par-5s on the back, 17 and 18, but I couldn’t get the putt to fall on 17, then I hit a poor chip into 18,” Kan said. “But the putt was uphill, so I felt like I could be aggressive with it.”
   Kan had back-to-back bogeys at four and five and much of the rest of the front nine she watched good birdie putts just slip past, including a real nice look from 10 feet at her last hole, the par-5 ninth, that just refused to fall.
   “I was really giving those birdies my best shot on the front nine,” said the 22-year-old Kan, who had younger sister Caprian toting her bag. “I was hitting good putts, they were on the high side, they just weren’t falling.”
   Some of the best women amateur players on the planet were able to take advantage of relatively benign conditions on an overcast, humid day at Rolling Green.
   Leading the pack is U.S. Curtis Cup team member Mika Liu of Beverly Hills, Calif. Liu, a Stanford recruit who still has a year of high school left, fired a 5-under 66. Liu, No. 20 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, had seven birdies, including all four of Rolling Green’s par-5s, to offset two bogeys.
   Yuka Saso of the Phillipines and Lucy Li of Redwood Shores, Calif. are tied for second at 4-under 67. Li, who qualified for the Women’s Amateur at age 10 and the U.S. Women’s Open two years ago at age 11, still doesn’t turn 14 until October.
   One of Liu’s U.S. Curtis Cup teammates, Mariel Galdiano of Pearl City, Hawaii, is one of six players tied for fourth at 3-under 68. Galdiano will start her collegiate career at UCLA later this month.
   South Carolina senior Katelyn Dambaugh of Goose Creek, S.C. is also in the group at 68. The left-hander, a runnerup at the 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, got off to a slow start, but birdied four of the last six holes for a back-nine 31.
   Kan, meanwhile, talked after her round about her future in golf. She admitted to being burned out after her four years playing at the highest level of Division I golf at Purdue ended in 2015. She was scheduled to begin a new job at Vanguard in client relations Monday.
   “Huge shout-out to Vanguard for letting me push my starting date back a week,” Kan said.
   She was clearly conflicted about possibly giving professional golf a shot, but she hasn’t lost her enthusiasm for the game. She thoroughly enjoyed joining up with an old scholastic and collegiate rival, Ellen Ceresko, and Radnor High’s two-time PIAA champion Brynn Walker to give Pennsylvania a third-place finish in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship at Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau, Mo. last year.
   “Pro golf is an option,” Kan said. “After college, I needed to get away from it a little. But I’ll always have golf. I really do love golf.”
   Kan shared low Boiler honors with Purdue senior August Kim, the Big Ten champion from Saint Augustine, Fla. Kim also carded a 3-over 74.
   Former Pennsbury standout Jackie Rogowicz, a sophomore at Penn State, carded a 1-over 72 and is tied for 36th. Recent Council Rock North graduate Madelein Herr, who will join Rogowicz at Penn State later this month, is tied for 87th after an 87. Former Lower Merion standout Alessandra Liu,  who earned a berth in the NCAA Championship as a senior at William & Mary this spring, is tied for 104th with a 76.
   South Jersey native Meghan Stasi, an eight-time Philadelphia Women’s Amateur and four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion, is tied for 136th after a 79. And recent Unionville graduate Kate Evanko, who is headed for Georgetown, had an 82 and is alone at 152nd place.
   Kristen Gillman of Austin, Texas, who won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Nassau Country Club, is in that group tied for 36th at 1-over 72.Gillman, an Alabama recruit, is coming off an impressive victory in the North and South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst No. 2. Sierra Brooks of Sorrento, Fla., the runnerup to Hannah O’Sullivan at Portland Country Club, struggled to a 75. Brooks, who will start her collegiate career at Wake Foest later this month, is another of the seven U.S. Curtis Cuppers in the field.
   One of Brooks’ playing partners, Anita Uwadia of Nigeria, is one of eight players tied for 10th at 2-under 69. Uwadia, who played scholastic golf at Hilton Head, S.C. and is headed for the University of South Carolina, is a player with plenty of power.
   Also in that group at 69 are South Korea’s Eun Jeong Seong, who is coming off her second straight U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship win, and Georgia sophomore Bailey Tardy, another member of the U.S. Curtis Cub side.
   One of Kan's playing partners, Duke junior Celine Boutier of France had a pretty remarkable round of even-par 71. After starting out bogey-birdie, Boutier rattled off 16 straight pars. Sure, she would have liked to have made more birdies, but she made par from everywhere, including a couple of really tough up-and-downs from bunkers. You think that kind of consistency would be tough to look at all day in match play?
   Caught the last three holes of Madelein Herr’s round and she was paired with Li. At 13, Li is a remarkably focused player.

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