Teenage Phenoms – And Friends – Set The Pace At 110th North And South Women’s Amateur

Teenage Phenoms – And Friends – Set The Pace At 110th North And South Women’s Amateur

Florida’s Jaye Marie Green enjoys best round of the day with 3-under 69

VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – You could hear them laugh on the fairway and see them smile on the greens.

Jaye Marie Green and Moriya Jutanugarn, two teenagers from the junior golf hotbed of Florida, are gunning for the same prize – to win the prestigious 110th North and South Amateur at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club.

You would think that would make them adversaries on the golf course. But if they are, it’s certainly hard to tell.

Partnered in the same group as 2011 North and South runner-up Doris Chen, the duo was right where they expected to be — among the class of the field. The 18-year-old Green led the way with a 3-under 69 on the 6,563-yard Pinehurst No. 8 at the amateur championship’s first round of stroke play on Tuesday, clipping Jutanugarn and fellow Florida teen Kailey Walsh by one shot.

“It’s fun to play golf when you play with someone like Moriya,” said Green, who won the 2011 South Atlantic Amateur – almost a year to the day before 17-year-old Jutanugarn won it. “I see her every tournament, and it’s great because we can, you know, talk. It’s not, ‘So, where are you from?’ We can talk for real.”

They can play, too.

On a day when just seven players managed to break par, Green, who has played in both the U.S. Open and the Kraft Nabisco Championship this year, was solid from start to finish, opening with two birdies in her first six holes. Green stumbled with a bogey on the par-5 sixth, her 15th hole of the day, but closed with a birdie on the 9th for the low round of the day.

Jutanugarn, who made the cut at the 2011 U.S. Open and again qualified for the major championship this year, opened with eight straight pars before a bogey on the par-4 18th, but rallied with three birdies in her first five holes after making the turn. Shaking off a 1-hour, 22-minute weather delay, Jutanugarn finished with four straight pars for a tidy 70.

“From tee to green, I hit the ball well, though I struggled a bit on the greens,” said Jutanugarn, who’s a native of Bangkok, Thailand. “My putter was close, but I just couldn’t get a lot to go in.”

The two will be grouped again with Chen, who shot 2-over 74, on Wednesday morning. They will tee off at 8:06 a.m.

Walsh had four birdies to come in at 2 under as well, working around two bogeys on the front side to move within one of the lead.

“It was tough out there in the heat,” said Walsh, who played her afternoon round as the heat index soared to 104. “You really had to keep your head down and just play. It was hard to keep focused.”

The tournament will feature three rounds of stroke play at the Centennial Course, with the top 60 and ties advancing to Thursday’s third round. The top 16 will then advance to match play, which will be played on Friday and Saturday on famed Pinehurst No. 2.

Haley Stephens, of Greer, S.C., and a rising senior at Texas, led a group of four players at 1 under after a solid morning round. Stephens said she believes her maturity enabled her to record one of the few under par rounds.

“The greens are good-sized,” Stephens said. “If you hit them in the center, you’re only going to have a 20-to-25-footer. And if you get the speed down, you’re fine. And then a couple of those will drop and if not, you have tap-in pars, so you’re fine. I think a lot of people, especially young players, they tend to get greedy, and they go for it. And if you’re off four or five paces from the edge, you’re chipping from the rough. I think that’s just the maturity of me as a golfer.”

Stephens got off to a hot start, making birdie on three of the first five holes. She bookended her back nine with bogeys on 10 and 18 to finish at 71, but was pleased to stay within her strategy of conservative play.

“The pin locations were set up to play smart, and I think that’s where I excel,” she said. “I’m not scared to go for the center of the green, get two putts and get out of there. And I was fortunate enough for a couple of them to go in.

 “You definitely have to take your medicine and not go after every pin. That’s definitely going to be my strategy for the whole week.”

England’s Holly Clyburn, one of the top players in the field and a key member of the Curtis Cup-winning team in June, made a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 second hole, but came back with six birdies to salvage a round of even-par 72 with three others. Despite the ups and downs, she was pleased.

“I’d take three rounds of even par and go to No. 2,” Clyburn said. “I think that’s straight up there and not far away (of qualifying for match play.)”

That said, count Clyburn as one of those not surprised by Green’s round.

“Out there is under par,” Clyburn said. “I had an 8 and shot level par. I had six birdies, so it’s not like you cannot shot under par. You can. Hit fairways and greens; that’s all you have to do. And hole a couple of putts. But I’d take three rounds of level and go to match play and start fresh.”

Ellen Port, at 50 years old the eldest player in the field, shot 2-over 74.

Two years after the Men’s North and South Amateur Championship began in 1900, the women’s championship was born and now celebrates its 110th year.  It has become one of the most sought after women’s amateur titles and routinely displays the talents of players who are seen competing on the LPGA.

Its champions are among the legends of the game: Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Peggy Kirk, Hollis Stacey, Donna Andrews, Brandie Burton, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng.

“Pinehurst has been a bastion of amateur golf for over a century,” said Pinehurst President Don Padgett. “It is amateur golf at its best.”