By Christina Lance
KETTERING, Ohio – Arizona’s 2-under-par total of 144 gives it a two-stroke lead over Florida after Tuesday’s first round of the 2013 USGA Women’s State Team Championship, being conducted on the par-73, 6,153-yard South Course at NCR Country Club.
Arizona was led by a 2-under 71 from 15-year-old Hannah O’Sullivan, of Paradise Valley. Stephanie Kim, 22, of Tempe, carded an even-par 73 in the 3-count-2 format, while Kylee Duede, 22, of Glendale, added a non-scoring 9-over 82.
Florida is second at even-par 146, followed by New Mexico at 1-over 147. Indiana is solo fourth at 2-over 148, while Maryland is fifth at 4-over 150.
The United States Golf Association conducts the USGA Women’s State Team Championship on a biennial basis. It is open to teams of three players from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.Eighteen holes of stroke play are scheduled over three days, with the two lowest scores of the three individuals counting as the team’s score for the round. The team with the lowest aggregate score through 54 holes, ending Sept. 19, is the champion.
O’Sullivan, who reached the round of 32 at the 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior, carded three birdies to one bogey en route to her 71. The sophomore at Phoenix’s noted Xavier College Preparatory, where the girls golf team has won 30 state titles, pointed to her putting as the highlight of her round.
“I was hitting really solid putts all day,” said O’Sullivan, who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open at age 14. “The front nine, I wasn't struggling but trying to judge speed. The back nine, the speed kind of clicked for me. I started making more putts and hitting some good lags.”
Kim, who completed her eligibility at Northern Arizona University in May, carded two birdies and two bogeys in her first Women’s State Team appearance. And even though her teammates are also Women’s State Team rookies, they believe that they are more than capable of bring the trophy back to Arizona for the first time since 2007.
“We knew we could compete out here,” said Kim, who won the Arizona Women’s Golf Association’s 2012 State Amateur Match Play title.
“We wanted to go out and do our best. It's good for sure.”
For Florida, four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, 35, of Oakland Park, and Tara Joy-Connelly, 40, of Palm Beach Gardens, both carded even-par 73s. Ericka Schneider, 22, of Bradenton, returned a non-counting 3-over 76.Stasi and Joy-Connelly both endured bumpy opening stretches. Stasi carded three bogeys in her first five holes, while Joy-Connelly went bogey/double bogey at the third and fourth holes.
“I thought, all right, you're doing way better than this,” said Joy-Connelly. “You're playing better than this, so just calm down. I told Meghan (this morning), stay patient. That's what you have to do on good old courses like this.”
That veteran savvy proved fruitful for the Floridian duo. Joy-Connelly, who returned to her former home state in July to win the 2013 Massachusetts Women’s Amateur, strung together birdies at holes five through eight, while Stasi carded her own birdie run at Nos. 14-16.
“I gave myself a lot of chances today, even on the front nine,” said Stasi, who reached the second round of match play at last month’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.
“I had a few more (birdie chances), but I just didn't make any on the front.”
While Joy-Connelly is competing in her eighth Women’s State Team, this is her first time representing Florida. The reinstated amateur previously played for Massachusetts, though she has teamed with Stasi to win the 2009 Florida Four-Ball Match Play Championship and the 2012 Women’s International Four-Ball Championship.
“It's quite an honor,” said Joy-Connelly of representing her new home state. “There's so many good players in Florida and it's always fun to play in a national championship.”
Two-time defending champion Georgia sits 10 strokes behind at 8-over 154 and holds a share of ninth place. Georgia also trailed by 10 strokes following the first round of the 2011 championship, but fought back for a two-stroke victory.
Only five players were able to break par on Tuesday. Maryland’s Bryana Nguyen and Kentucky’s Lucy Nunn joined O’Sullivan at 2-under 71. Abby Portyrata, of Virginia, and New Jersey’s Alice Chen returned 1-under 72s.
“I know there's not going to be a lot of scores under because this course is just so tough,” said Nguyen, who has committed to attend the University of North Carolina in the fall of 2014. “I'm lucky I shot under par today.”