A runner-up a year ago, Adams returns to Pinehurst – and to the top of the leaderboard

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A year ago, Lori Beth Adams (right) was the runner-up to Alison Lee in the Women’s North & South Amateur. After the first round on Monday, Adams shares the lead.

Adams cards an even-par 70 to share North & South lead with Lauren Stephenson

By Alex Podlogar

SCORES

PAIRINGS

VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – At the 2014 Women’s North & South Amateur, Lori Beth Adams stood on the 17th tee of the championship match with a 1-up lead.

But Alison Lee, the reigning college player of the year and now a rising star rookie on the LPGA Tour, rallied to win in 19 holes, and now it’s Lee’s photo and Lee’s name on the walls in the Pinehurst Resort Clubhouse.

A year later, though, it’s Adams’ name at the top of the leaderboard.

On a brutal day for scoring on venerable Pinehurst No. 2, Adams made four birdies to card an even-par 70 to share the lead with Lauren Stephenson after the first round of the 113th Women’s North & South Amateur on Monday.

Adams, a graduate of UNC-Wilmington, is playing in her sixth North & South event. In a sense, Pinehurst has become something of a summer home for her.

“I feel comfortable out here,” she said. “It’s a good environment to be around. Everyone’s so nice and supportive, and Pinehurst is just great.”

Adams opened her round with a birdie on the first, but fell all the way to 2 over after a bogey on 4 and a double bogey on the par-3 6th, which played as the most difficult hole of the day with a 3.879 average. Adams quickly settled down after that, though, finishing the front nine with three straight pars before birdies on 10, 12 and 16 around a bogey at 14 enabled her to come in at level par.

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Lori Beth Adams plays in the championship match of the 2014 Women’s North & South Amateur.

“I like the back (nine) better than the front,” Adams admitted. “If I can just get through the front, I’ll be fine. The greens on the back felt more reasonable. You can hit it toward the edges. But for the most part, I just stuck to the middle of the greens and had 30-footers for birdie.”

Finding the middle of the greens revealed Adams’ North & South experience.

“I learned a little bit last year to not be so aggressive,” said Adams, who played in the U.S. Women’s Open last week. “And definitely out here, par is good. Even bogey’s probably pretty good considering the greens and how firm they are.”

Stephenson felt the same way about the course that hosted the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in consecutive weeks in June 2014. No. 2, using hole locations similar to those from the first round of the Women’s Open, played to a 79.86 scoring average on Monday.

“Par out here is amazing,” said Stephenson, a rising freshman at Clemson. “I would take par on every single hole every day of the week. I’m really thrilled.”

Stephenson, who reached match play last year at the North & South, began on the 10th tee. She opened her round with nine straight pars, though she had to work for them.

Lauren Stephenson

“My strongest part of my game today was my short game,” Stephenson said. “My first hole, I hit as many bad shots as you can hit in the first hole, but somehow I managed to make par. That was a good way to start off my round.

“I got up and down a couple of times from some difficult positions, which really gets your momentum going.”

After a bogey on the first hole, Stephenson rallied with a birdie on the par-5 5th and then carded the only birdie of the day on the difficult 6th. A bogey on 7 led to her even-par finish.

“(No. 2) is just different than anything we’ve ever played,” Stephenson said. “The greens are so tricky. Having a caddie from here definitely helped me. He did an amazing job and I credit most of it to him. He told me where to hit it, and that’s very helpful because knowing these greens is so important.”

Arkansas junior Samantha Marks was two shots back after a 2-over 72 while five players were another stroke back after 3-over 73s. There will be two more rounds of stroke play before the field is cut to the top 16 players, who will be seeded for match play Thursday. The semifinals and finals will be played on Friday.

North & South champions are among the legends of the game: Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Peggy Kirk Bell, Hollis Stacey, Brandie Burton, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng. As much as the North & South is a championship with a great past, it also continues to foster a great legacy. Nine of the last 12 Amateur champions have joined the LPGA Tour.

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