By Alex Podlogar
That she made 7 was impressive.
We won’t name her. No, not this time. She can live in anonymity because, to be fair, it could’ve happened to any of us. In fact, it’s more likely to happen to any of us. But that it happened to her, a competitor in one of the deepest fields annually in all of amateur golf, allows you to understand everything you need to know about how Pinehurst No. 2 was playing in the second round of the 121st Women’s North & South Amateur on Wednesday.
First, on 18, her tee shot struck a tree. But not just any tree. This tree was just 50 yards or so, off on the right side, from the tee box. The ball came straight down.
Her next shot clocked another tree, and bounded further back into the woods. Her attempt to punch out from there got nabbed by a wire grass bush and stayed in the native area. She didn’t find the fairway until she was lying four.
And made a 7. The foursome ahead of her, just one ball found the green in regulation, and even it hung perilously on top of the slope behind the hole location. How it stayed there is anybody’s guess, certainly the superintendent’s. The rest met their fate, that’s for sure.
Anna Morgan walks alone during a tough day on Pinehurst No. 2. (Photo by Zach Pessagno)
“It was a little bit brutal at times,” said Anna Morgan, the 2021 runner-up in this championship. “Honestly, I am pretty proud of myself to hang in there. I normally wouldn’t say that after shooting 76.”
Above it all, Arizona State’s Ashley Menne managed a staggering five birdies to go with a totally normal – on this day – four bogeys for a 1-under 71 to come in at 5 under for the championship, good enough to clip Duke’s Anne Chen by a shot and win medalist honors heading into the Round of 32 match play.
“It means a lot to be medalist,” said Menne, who missed the cut at the North & South last summer. “I had a rough time at this tournament last year. I’m so honored to win medalist, especially to win it here on Pinehurst No. 2, an iconic spot and the U.S. Open is going to be here. Even cooler.”
Ashley Menne blasts out of a greenside bunker on Wednesday. (Photo by Zach Pessagno)
Menne’s under par round was just one of four total for the day, a stark contrast to the play featured on Pinehurst No. 4 in Tuesday’s first round. There, 31 players finished the day under par. By the end of play Wednesday, just eight golfers remained under par through stroke play. In all, 38 players – a staggering third of the entire field – shot in the 80s on No. 2.
“It was definitely a grind,” Menne said. “The course, especially coming down the stretch on the last few holes with the heat, was really difficult. The greens are really challenging, they’re drying out a little bit more, getting firmer, quicker. Obviously, the scores speak volumes for how hard it’s played.”
Annabelle Pancake points to her low round of 69 on Pinehurst No. 2. (Photo by John Patota)
And then there was Annabelle Pancake.
The Clemson junior, who shot a 2-over 74 on No. 4, began her day in the most inauspicious of ways. Tied for 54th, she found herself in the first tee time at 7 a.m. and off the 10th tee. But through the 4th hole – the 13th for her – she was 2 under for the day. Then came the double bogey on the 7th, her 16th, sending her back to even for the round.
“My caddie just said, let’s just try to knock it in and not have to putt and deal with the greens,” Pancake said.
So, she did – almost.
Left with 195 yards on the par-5 8th, Pancake nearly holed her 4 iron, the ball lipping out and leaving her approach a foot away for eagle. On the par-3 9th, she nearly holed it again, giving herself another 1-footer, this time for birdie. On the card, that left her with a 3-under 69, the lowest round of the day, and one better than Emma Schimpf’s 70. Three hours later, as the final groups were finishing, Pancake had moved all the way up to the seventh seed for match play.
“It was a nice, chill way to finish. A stress-reliever for sure,” she said.
Now, one of the elite amateur events of the game moves on to match play. The Round of 32 will be played on Thursday, with Round of 16 and Quarterfinal matches set for Friday. The Semifinals and Championship match are scheduled for Sunday.
All matches, of course, will be played on Pinehurst No. 2.
“It’s just me against the other person playing,” Menne said. “I’m not really going to focus much on the stroke play part of it. That’s over.”
In other words, 7 might be good enough.
121st Women’s North & South Amateur
Round of 32
Pinehurst No. 2
July 13, 2023
No. 1 Ashley Menne vs. No. 32 Maisie Filler, 7 a.m.
No. 16 Katherine Schuster vs. No. 17 Anna Morgan, 7:08 a.m.
No. 8 Anika Varma vs. No. 25 Sophie Zhang-Murphy, 7:16 a.m.
No. 9 Chloe Kovelesky vs. No. 24 Brianna Navarrosa, 7:24 a.m.
No. 4 Sabrina Iqbal vs. No. 29 Faith Choi, 7:32 a.m.
No. 13 Megan Schofill vs. No. 20 Lauren Zaretsky, 7:40 a.m.
No. 5 Savannah Grewal vs. No. 28 Bentley Cotton, 7:48 a.m.
No. 12 Justice Bosio vs. No. 21 Karissa Kilby, 7:56 a.m.
No. 2 Anne Chen vs. No. 31 Virginie Ding, 8:04 a.m.
No. 15 Madelyn Gamble vs. No. 18 Katie Li, 8:12 a.m.
No. 7 Annabelle Pancake vs. No. 26 Kary Hollenbaugh, 8:20 a.m.
No. 10 Brooke Biermann vs. No. 23 Momo Sugiyama, 8:28 a.m.
No. 3 Emma Schimpf vs. No. 30 Isabella Rawl, 8:36 a.m.
No. 14 Grace Kilcrease vs. No. 19 Catie Craig, 8:44 a.m.
No. 6 Casey Weidenfeld vs. No. 27 Melanie Green, 8:52 a.m.
No. 11 Emma McMyler vs. No. 22 Camille Boyd, 9 a.m.