EUGENE, Ore. (Aug. 5, 2008)--Amanda Blumenherst, 22, of Scottsdale, Ariz., shot a 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead after Monday’s first round of stroke play at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being played at the 6,484-yard, par-72 Eugene Country Club.
Blumenherst, the U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up a year ago, used a 5-under 30 on the outward nine at Eugene Country Club, her second nine of the round, to take a two-stroke lead over her 2008 USA Curtis Cup teammate Alison Walshe, 23, of Westford, Mass. Blumenherst compiled seven birdies and one bogey.
“None of the birdies were really spectacular,” said Blumenherst, who tied the 18-hole U.S. Women's Amateur scoring record owned by Kellee Booth (1998) and Natalie Gulbis (1999). “All were just in the middle of the fairway, on the green and made a nice putt. None of them were too long, either.
Her birdies did include a 30-footer for birdie on the 12th hole and a 20-footer on the third. On her final hole, the par-4, 402-yard ninth, Blumenherst made another 20-footer to put an exclamation point on the round.
Amanda Blumenherst's 66 Monday at Eugene C.C. tied an 18-hole U.S. Women's Amateur scoring mark. (USGA Museum)
For Blumenherst, it was a successful return to action. She had not played a competitive round since the final day of the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., where she finished tied for 38th. She spent the month of July vacationing with family and friends in Indiana, Cape Cod and Arizona.
“I have a tendency, when I take a lot of time off, to play really well in my upcoming tournament,” said Blumenherst. “When I was practicing at home and then when I came out here, I felt very confident in my game. I was striking the ball really well and my big thing always is reading putts, and putting the right speed on them and I just had both of them together today, and that equates to a low score.”
Blumenherst came to Eugene with a sparkling résumé – three-time national collegiate player of the year, two-time USA Curtis Cupper, low-amateur honors at both the U.S. Women’s Open and the LPGA Tour’s Kraft Nabisco Championship – among numerous victories and accolades. But she doesn’t feel any extra pressure due to the label of field favorite.
“This might sound conceited, but I’ve kind of gotten used to it in college,” said Blumenherst. “I’ve had to play with those kind of expectations and that kind of pressure so this is just another tournament where that’s the case. So I’ve gotten used to it by now. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Walshe made three consecutive 10-foot birdie putts, starting at the par-4 15th hole, to power her round, which featured seven birdies and three bogeys.
“It’s just feels great to play well,” said Walshe, who is playing in her third U.S. Women’s Amateur. “I mean, I love this tournament. They always set it up tough so to play well on a course like this feels great.”
Like Blumenherst, Walshe hasn’t played many events this summer but when she has they have been high-profile. She finished an undefeated 4-0 to help lead the USA to victory at the Curtis Cup Match played on the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland earlier this summer, and then finished tied for 31st at the U.S. Women’s Open. Outside of playing in the Women’s North & South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort’s No. 2 Course, she has spent the last few weeks at home in Massachusetts.
“I’ve just been practicing a lot and grinding on my short game, which was key here,” she said. “That’s pretty much why I scored well today.”
Despite her recent successes, Walshe admitted to some anxiety heading into Monday’s first round at Eugene.
“I was a little nervous, to be honest,” said Walshe. “I think I put a lot of pressure on myself and I came out here in the practice rounds and I was like, ‘Man, this course is tough.’ I kind of psyched myself out, but I was trying to go the other way last night. I was like, ‘Oh I can score well,’ and then I started out with two birdies today and that just got my mindset in the right place and I was more comfortable playing off of that.”
Stephanie Sherlock, 21, of Canada, and Stephanie Na, 19, of Australia, both finished at 3-under 69, three strokes off Blumenherst’s pace.
Sherlock, playing in her first U.S. Women’s Amateur, knew her round was going well when she made par on the 17th hole, the eighth of her round, despite hitting a tree on her tee shot.
“It was a little embarrassing because it hit the tree and literally bounced about 100 yards back so it was maybe 70 yards off the tee,” said Sherlock, who finished second at the Canadian Women’s Amateur last week. “So it was kind of funny, but I just punched a 4-iron up there by the green and made a nice putt to save par.”
The 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, Kimberly Kim, 16, of Pahoa, Hawaii, opened with a 10-over 82 and will have her work cut out for her if she hopes to make the cut to match play. Kim became the youngest winner in the championship’s history when she won at age 14 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore., two years ago.
Two players who have won a USGA championship in 2008 are in the field, hoping to become just the seventh golfer in history to claim two USGA titles in the same year. Tiffany Joh, 21, of San Diego, Calif., who won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links in June, opened with a 2-over 74. And 13-year-old Alexis Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., who won the Girls’ Junior a week ago, shot a first-round 4-over 76.
After a second day of stroke play Tuesday, the U.S. Women’s Amateur field will be reduced to 64 players for match play. The first round of match play is scheduled for Wednesday, the second and third rounds will be played Thursday and the quarterfinal matches are on Friday. The semifinals will be played Saturday and the 36-hole championship final will be played Sunday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
--Story written by Beth Murrison of USGA Media Relations.