Brynn Walker, who won back-to-back PIAA Class AAA championships at Radnor High, has her work cut out for her if she plans to make match play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, Calif.
Walker, coming off a solid freshman season at North Carolina, carded a 5-over-par 77 over the 6,423-yard, par-72 San Diego Country Club layout in Monday’s opening round of qualifying for match play and is tied for 94th. The top 64 qualifiers after Tuesday’s second round will commence match play Wednesday.
Playing in her second U.S. Women’s Amateur, Walker opened with a bogey on the 10th, but got it under par with back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14. But she was unable to make another birdie while making six bogeys the rest of the way to fall back to 5-over.
Former Owen J. Roberts standout Maddie Sager, the runnerup to Walker in the 2015 state tournament at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort, struggled in her U.S. Women’s Amateur debut, posting an 83 that has her tied for 149th.
A triple bogey 8 on the par-5 second made for a rough start for Sager, who is coming off her freshman season at Seton Hall. She quickly bounced back with a birdie at the third, but couldn’t find any more birdies while making seven bogeys and finishing up with a double bogey at the 18th.
If it’s any consolation, one of the players tied with Sager is 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan, who had originally planned to turn pro last fall, but reconsidered and now will join the powerhouse Duke program in a few weeks.
Sager also got an up-close look at one of the top players in college golf, Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho, who was one of Sager’s playing partners in Monday’s opening round. Kupcho of Westminster, Colo., looked like she was going to be the NCAA individual champion until her approach at the 17th hole at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. found the water. She opened with a 3-over 75 Monday and is tied for 61st.
Sager’s new Seton Hall teammate, Mia Kness, who captured the PIAA Class AAA title last fall as a senior at Peters Township, is also in the group tied for 61st along with Kupcho after Kness carded a 3-over 75.
Starting on the back nine, Kness was 4-over after a double bogey at 12 and bogeys at 16 and 17. But she battled hard the rest of the way, starting with a birdie at the 18th. She fell back to 4-over with a bogey at the first, but made a birdie at the fourth and grinded out five straight pars to finish her round.
The oldest player in the field, 39-year-old Meghan Stasi, a four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and eight-time Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur champion, put herself in position to make match play with a 2-over 74 that has her tied for 45th.
The South Jersey native and Eastern High product also started on the back and quickly got it to 2-under with birdies at 14 and 17 before a double bogey at the 18th dropped her back to even-par. A birdie at the first got her back under par, but bogeys at three, six and nine left her at 2-over.
Stasi, Meghan Bolger when she won the first seven of those Philadelphia Women’s Amateur titles, lives on Fort Lauderdale, Fla. with her husband Danny. She was disappointed when she failed to make match play in familiar surroundings in last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club.
Two of college golf’s top individual players, Alabama sophomore Kristen Gillman and Arizona junior Haley Moore, are tied at the top of the leaderboard after each carded a 5-under 67.
Gillman, who defeated Brooke Henderson to win the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Nassau Country Club on Long Island, played a nearly flawless round Monday. The Austin, Texas native started at 10 and made birdies at 12, 13 and 17 to make the turn at 3-under 33. She followed a birdie at the sixth with an eagle at the par-5 eighth to get to 6-under for her round before she made a bogey at the ninth.
Moore, a local favorite from Escondido, Calif., entered Arizona as a 16-year-old and nearly won the NCAA championship as a freshman in 2016. She was still young enough to be eligible for the U.S. Girls’ Junior a couple of weeks ago at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo., where she reached the round of 16 before falling in 19 holes.
Moore started on the back nine and made birdies at 12, 13 and 17 to make the turn at 3-under 33. She then embarked on a wild ride on a front nine that included just one par. She bogeyed the first, birdied two, four and five, bogeyed six, birdied seven and eighth and finished up with a bogey at nine.
One shot behind Gillman and Moore is another of college golf’s top players, Georgia junior Bailey Tardy of Peachtree Corners, Ga., who carded a 4-under 68.
Tardy, a member of the 2016 U.S. Curtis Cup team, had an uneventful front nine with a birdie at six and a bogey at seven. But she went off on the back nine, going 5-under in a stretch of six holes, making birdies at 10 and 13, an eagle at the par-5 14th and a birdie at 15. She gave a shot back with a bogey at the last.
While Stasi is the oldest player in the championship, the youngest, 12-year-old Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Fla., put herself in good position to make match play with a 1-under 71 that left her tied for 10th.
Pano claimed her first American Junior Golf Association victory last summer in the PDQ/Philadelphia Runner Junior at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Weyhill Course less than a month after teeing it up at Rolling Green as an 11-year-old. Pano failed to make match play at Rolling Green and it sounds odd when talking about a 12-year-old, but Pano is a year older and wiser at the U.S. Women’s Amateur this year.