This was a different Pinehurst No. 2 than Nicole Adam is used to.
Not that anyone could tell.
Playing in her first Women’s North & South Amateur, the field’s only local player definitely looked the part in putting together a solid 1-under-par 70 to finish two shots back of leader Amelia Garvey after the first round of the 117th playing of the nation’s longest consecutively-running women’s amateur championship on Monday.
“I’m really excited,” said the 17-year-old from Pinehurst. “It’s a great experience playing against all of these really high-level college players.”
Adam, long a standout junior golfer who has committed to play at North Carolina in 2020, certainly looked comfortable on No. 2, making a 30-footer on 7 for one of her four birdies on the day.
Still, it was a noticeably different No. 2.
“Definitely, the greens were faster,” she said. “I knew it was going to be very important to hit the middle of the greens, and I did that today.”
“That was one of my best rounds ever on No. 2,” she added.
There’s something about Kiwis and this place.
And it seems, there’s something about Women’s British Amateur runners-up and this place.
How else might you explain Amelia Garvey’s first round on Pinehurst No. 2 in the 117th Women’s North & South Amateur?
Well, to be honest, you could probably explain it simply by noting she plays collegiately for Southern California, one of the top women’s golf programs in the country. And, yes, her recent performance in nearly winning the Women’s British Amateur a few weeks ago is probably enough as well.
Perhaps this round just confirmed things.
Garvey scrambled her way through her first few holes of No. 2 on Monday, yet still found herself 2 under after five holes following a birdie on 14 (she opened her round on the 10th tee). She made bogeys at 15 and 17, but nullified those with birdies at 16 and 18. Two more birdies on her back nine gave her a tidy 3-under 68 to lead by one over Baylor’s Gurleen Kaur.
“Really, I just was grinding out there,” Garvey said. “I really didn’t hit a lot of great shots, but my scrambling was so good, and my chipping was immaculate. I’m definitely happy with this number.”
Garvey hasn’t played competitively since she lost 1-down to England’s Emily Toy at the 116th Women’s Amateur Championship at Royal Country Down in mid-June.
“I certainly didn’t play amazing today, and I hit some horrendous shots,” she quipped. “But I haven’t had any tournament rounds in a few weeks. I’m happy with what I got out of it.”
As for her fellow New Zealanders? Michael Campbell famously held off Tiger Woods to win the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, and just over a year ago, James Anstiss finished as the men’s North & South runner-up, receiving a supportive phone call from Campbell immediately after the championship.
“I’m not too sure what it is about Pinehurst and Kiwis,” Garvey said. “But there’s something special here.”
Content, calm and cool. That’s just how Stephanie Lau plays in Pinehurst.
The defending Women’s North & South Amateur Champion worked around a double bogey at the par-4 7th hole to record three birdies on her way to a 1-over-par 72 that left her tied for 7th after the first round.
“It felt good,” Lau said. “It was fun.”
Lau, who played in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur earlier this year, admitted that it felt a little strange seeing her picture in the famed hallway of the Pinehurst clubhouse.
“It’s a little weird,” she said, “but I just love this place. I have a few teammates playing with me this year, and we’ve got a great host family. For me, personally, I just love being here.”
A fellow former North & South Champion, Isabella Fierro, did not fare so well in the first round, shooting a 9-over 80. Fierro started with three bogeys to begin her round, and things didn’t get any easier from there.
As usual, the Women’s North & South features one of the elite amateur fields of the year. A few other top players:
- Gina Kim, who contended at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open, opened her North & South with a 2-over 73 and is tied for 16th.
- Bethany Wu, a top player at UCLA and the runner-up to Bailey Tardy in the 2015 North & South, shot 4-over 75 and is tied for 29th.
- Jennifer Chang, a top player at Southern Cal who hails from nearby Cary, had a solid 1-over 72.
- Gabi Ruffels, the runner-up to Lau a year ago, finished in a share of 33rd after a 5-over 76.
Two rounds of stroke play followed by five rounds of match play will determine the champion. The 90-player field will be cut to a 32-player match play field and medalist honors. All stroke and match play rounds will be contested on Pinehurst No. 2, and the championship match is scheduled for Friday afternoon.
Women’s North & South champions are among the legends of the game and include Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Peggy Kirk Bell, Hollis Stacey as well as 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. Eleven of the last 16 Amateur champions have joined the LPGA Tour, four of whom have won major championships – Pressel, Tseng and Lang, who won the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. 2011 Women’s North & South Champion Danielle Kang won her first major championship in 2017 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The Women’s North & South has drawn the top amateur women from around the country and is the longest consecutively running women’s amateur championship in the country. Its first championship was played in 1903.
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