WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (July 9, 2012) –– Carol Robertson of Virginia Beach shot 5-under-par 67 to pace the first day of stroke play qualifying as the 87th Virginia State Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship got underway today at the 5,770-yard, par 72 Golden Horseshoe Golf Club Gold Course.
Robertson, 28, the head women’s golf coach at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, posted one four rounds in red numbers on the first day of qualifying. South Hill’s Paige Reese, 19, a rising junior at Radford University, playing in the same group of three with Robertson, had 4-under 68. Nellysford’s Elizabeth Brightwell, 21, a rising junior at the University of Virginia, and Chantilly’s Ju Hee Bae, 17, last year’s Women’s Amateur runner-up, each returned 3-under 69. The next-best score of 1-over 73 came from 2011 VSGA Senior Women’s Amateur champion Mimi Hoffman of Springfield.
Consistent with the composition of the starting field – more than 70 percent of the competitors in the field are teenagers or golfers 22 and under – 13 of the top 15 scores came from players ages 21 or under on day one.
A mid-amateur, Robertson (pictured right) led the way. Her round was ignited by scoring a hole-in-one at the 92-yard, par-3 seventh hole where she jarred her tee shot using a gap wedge. From the teeing ground, Robertson could only see the top of the flagstick and didn’t know she’d made an ace until she went searching and walked past the hole only to find her ball at the bottom.
Robertson wasn’t going to allow the one-of-a-kind moment affect the rest of her round.
“It’s my fifth hole-in-one, but the first one I ever made was in a college tournament and I was done after that. I was so excited to get a hole-in-one that I played terribly the rest of the round. I was going to get my revenge,” she said with a laugh.
Consider payback achieved. In posting the low round, she birdied three of the final four holes, knocking in a 10-footer at the par-5 15th, holing a 30-footer at the demanding uphill par-4 17th and converting an up and down from the greenside bunker at the par-5 finishing hole, capping the day by making an 8-footer.
Robertson won the VSGA Women’s Amateur in 2006 and turned professional shortly thereafter before being reinstated to amateur status in September 2010. Later that month, she reached the final of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Wichita (Kan.) Country Club.
Having competed at some of golf’s highest levels, she admittedly welcomes the opportunity to play against a rising contingent of fellow-competitors. She’ll be in the same group of three with Reese and Bae in Tuesday’s second day of stroke-play qualifying.
“I have high expectations when I play in VSGA tournaments,” Robertson said. “I played great golf today and I have to keep the same mindset for [Tuesday] and the rest of the week. This is supposed to be fun and that’s why I’m doing it. I’m not going to get myself too wound up over one good round because golf is golf. Hopefully, I’ll have another good day on [Tuesday].”
Reese, meanwhile, registered a day one-best seven birdies, with four coming over the span of the final five holes. She drained putts inside 10 feet at Nos. 14 and 15 before snaking in a 28-footer at the par-3 16th.
“I was shocked to see that one go in – I’m not going to lie,” Reese said with a laugh.
She completed the hot-putting round by knocking in an 8-footer for birdie at No. 18.
“Putting was the key today,” Reese said. “I tried to keep it in the fairway, hit greens and let the putter take over from there.”
Reese admits having her father, Bryant, on the bag has been a steadying influence.
“He taught me how to play and knows my game,” she said. “He keeps me calm most of the time.”
Brightwell, the medalist at last year’s Women’s Amateur, ran off four birdies in a six-hole span from Nos. 4-9 to offset a second nine bogey. The event’s qualifying medalist in 2011, Brightwell is eyeing a return to the match play portion of the championship after falling in the second round last year.
“This week is all about match play,” she said. The start of match play is on Wednesday. “These couple of days are important, but they are not make or break. I’d still love to get the medal, but it’s not about the seed – it’s more about match play.”
Bae was one under par in the late stages of the second nine before making back-to-back birdies at Nos. 15 and 16.
Northern Virginian Amanda Steinhagen, 20, of Oak Hill, the event’s two-time defending champion and this year’s VSGA Virginias Women’s Stroke Play winner, opened with 3-over 75. Steinhagen is trying to become the first player to win three consecutive VSGA Women’s Amateur titles since Salem’s Lee Shirley accomplished the feat (1996-98).
Following Tuesday’s second round of stroke play qualifying, the low 32 qualifiers will advance to the match play portion of the championship. At the completion of the first day of qualifying, 32 competitors are at 15-over-par 87 or better.
The first and second rounds of match play are scheduled for Wednesday, July 11, with the quarterfinals and semifinals on Thursday, July 12. The scheduled 18-hole championship final is set for Friday, July 13.