NESHANIC STATION, N.J. (June 18, 2012) – Cindy Ha, 15, of Demarest, N.J., and Lakareber Abe, 16, of Angleton, Texas, fired rounds of 4-under-par 68 to lead stroke-play qualifying at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at the 6,221-yard, par-72 Neshanic Valley Golf Course.
Kristina Merkle, 20, of Honolulu, Hawaii, Victoria Fallgren, 20, of Lakewood, Calif., and Brittany Altomare, 21, of Shrewsbury, Mass., had rounds of 3-under-par 69. Thirteen players finished at 2-under-par 70, including Lisa McCloskey of Houston, Texas, a 2012 USA Curtis Cup player and runner-up in the 2012 WAPL championship.
Ha and Abe used sharp iron play and consistent putting to good advantage in their sub-par rounds.
Starting play on the back nine, Ha made putts ranging from one-to-30 feet to birdie the 12th, 13th, 16th and 18th holes. She started her second nine with a 3-foot birdie putt on the first hole, made a 5-footer for a birdie on the second and knocked her wedge to within a foot of the hole on the fourth for another birdie. A 15-footer at the sixth hole gave her eight birdies on the day.
Ha made four bogeys when she missed four greens on her approach shots.
Ha was admittedly keyed up on her opening holes. “During practice, I wasn’t hitting it that well but once I got onto my back nine I got a lot steadier,” Ha said. “I knew there are a lot of good players, so I tried to go low.”
Local knowledge helped her efforts. Ha lives in Demarest, N.J. 60 miles from the Neshanic Valley course and played it several times before the championship began.
Abe managed five birdies against one bogey. Her only mishap was an approach shot into a bunker on the third hole, which resulted in her lone bogey.
Also starting play on the second nine, Abe birdied the 12th, 16th and 18th holes. On the 503-yard, par-5 fourth hole, she hit the green with a 3-wood second shot and two-putted from 60 feet for a birdie. Her final birdie came on the par-5 ninth.
“I just tried to stay patient,” Abe said. “Sometimes I get ahead of myself but I didn’t today. It’s so important to hit the fairway on this course.”
Ha’s 68 is her lowest score in a USGA competition. The high school junior is playing in her fourth USGA national championship. In 2011, Ha made it to the round of 16 in the U.S. Women’s Amateur before losing to Danielle Kang, the eventual champion. A native of South Korea, Ha became a U.S. citizen last year.
Abe attends the Jim McLean Golf Academy in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is home schooled with on-line studies. Mothers of the students rotate supervisory roles at the Academy houses. Abe’s father, Daudi, a chemical engineer, is her caddie this week.
After the conclusion of stroke-play qualifying on Tuesday, the low 64 scorers advance to match play. Matches begin on Wednesday and the championship concludes with a 36-hole final on Saturday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links is one of 13 national championships conducted by the United States Golf Association. Ten are strictly for amateurs.