EAGLE, ID (July 18, 2005) -- Fifteen-year-old Taylore Karle of Scottsdale, Ariz., shot an imposing 8-under-par 63 in the first round of stroke-play qualifying at the 57th U.S. Girls’ Junior Monday.
On a sizzling day on the 6,348-yard, par-71 BanBury Golf Club layout, Karle finished one stroke off Christina Kim’s USGA-record 62 set at the 2001 Girls’ Junior. Entering Tuesday, Karle holds a comfortable lead on the field although half the field, including 2005 U.S. Women’s Open runner-up Morgan Pressel, 17, of Boca Raton, Fla., were going off in the afternoon.
Seventeen-year-old Sydnee Michaels of Temecula, Calif., went birdie-birdie-eagle over her final three holes to register a 4-under 67. Esther Choe, 15, of Scottsdale, Ariz., carded a 3-under 68 to stand five strokes behind. And 17-year-old In-Bee Park of Las Vegas, Nev., Mina Harigae, 15, of Monterey, Calif., and Angela Oh, 16, of Maple Shade, N.J., closed out with 2-under 69s.
But the spotlight was clearly on Karle, who lost to Paula Creamer in the second round of last year’s Girls’ Junior. Karle rolled out four consecutive birdies to start her round, playing bogey-free golf until the 16th hole when she three-putted from 20 feet.
“I woke up this morning and told myself, ‘Just play a solid round,’” said Karle, whose previous low round had been a 67.
Known as ‘Hammer Tee’ because of the length of her drives when she picked up the game five years ago, Karle rebounded from the bogey to birdie and par the last two holes. She nailed a 5-wood from 72 yards to within a foot on No. 17.
Even so, she lamented the lone bogey that resulted from a 20-foot downhill miss on No. 16 and said she would practice hard afterward.
“I told my dad on the flight here that I just want to finish first in stroke play and finish first in match play,” said Karle, who has two AJGA victories this year.
So, too, does Choe, who missed the cut earlier this year at the U.S. Women’s Open. Every one of her five birdies Monday were from short range, set up via the wedge.
Choe was eliminated in the quarterfinal round the past two years, the last against eventual champion Julieta Granada. Yet she was still able to conjure up thoughts of what it would mean to win it all this year.
“It would be great,” said Choe. “This is the biggest junior golf tournament in the world.”
Harigae, the three-time California State Women’s Amateur champion, made three birdie putts of 15 feet and finished with six birdies overall. Two years ago at Brooklawn Country Club she was a semifinalist, and last year at Mira Vista Golf Club she was knocked out in the quarterfinal round.
Harigae absorbed a double bogey on the 427-yard, par-4 sixth hole when she couldn’t get up and down from the left greenside rough. The ball sailed 10 feet before dying on the fringe, 15 feet away from the hole. Her par putt sped 10 feet by the hole.
“I think I was trying to be too cute with it,” said a laughing Harigae. “I was kind of like, ‘Land it on the fringe, let it roll up and get it close,’ but, no, it didn’t work. And then on my putt I was being too aggressive.”
A 4-foot birdie putt on her final hole, No. 9, brought an animated “Yes!!!” from her lips.
“It feels good because to me there’s a big difference between 70 and breaking 70, so that was a big relief,” said Harigae. “Sixty-nine also looks a lot better on the scoreboard.”
Amid a rather pedestrian round Park, the 2002 Girls’ Junior champion, eagled the par-5 fourth hole by chipping in from 25 yards out. Afterward she felt pleased with her round but was caught off guard when she learned of Karle’s score.
“What I have to do is go lower tomorrow,” said Park.