SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 6, 2012) -- Dawn Woodard, 38, of Greer, S.C., birdied three of her first six holes en route to carding a 3-under-par 69 during the first round of stroke-play qualifying Saturday at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Briggs Ranch Golf Club.
Woodard was one of two players among the field of 132 to break par on the 6,072-yard Tom Fazio layout.
Lucy Nunn, 25, of Lexington, Ky., had the other sub-par round, shooting a 71 in the morning wave. She is one stroke in front of a quartet of golfers: Robin Burke, of Houston; Mariko Makabe, of Irvine, Calif.; Tobi Herron, of Columbus, Ind.; and Mercedes Huarte, of Argentina.
The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, for female golfers 25 years of age and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
The championship consists of two rounds of stroke play, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play beginning on Monday. The 18-hole championship match is scheduled for Thursday morning.
Partly sunny skies and relatively calm winds allowed for ideal scoring conditions, but a layout featuring tree-lined fairways, undulating greens and knee-high rough in some areas challenged the players.
The championship started especially well for Andrea Kraus, of Baltimore, Md., the first player off the 10th tee. The 52-year-old who is playing in her 23rd individual USGA championship, holed out for an eagle-2 at the 352-yard 10th hole with a 9-iron from 120 yards. She finished with a 2-over 74.
Woodard also got off to a fast start, opening her round with consecutive birdies, from 20 feet on No. 1 and 7 feet on No. 2.
“That made it easier to settle in and relax, just play golf,” said Woodard, who hit 13 of 14 fairways and made five birdies. “You’ve got to put the ball in play here. There aren’t many places you can miss the green and have an easy up and down.”
Woodard is no stranger to success at the Women’s Mid-Am. She was the qualifying medalist in 2006 and 2007 and reached the quarterfinals in 2007 and 2009. This year she hopes to take the next step.
“You always learn something from your matches – good or bad,” said Woodard. “At a certain point, we’re all just as good as the next player. It just comes down to who gets it done. It’s a matter of having that positive mindset and believing you can get it done.”
Nunn started her round with 10 consecutive pars before making a birdie at the reachable 454-yard par-5 11th hole. She traded a bogey on No. 15 with a birdie at the 16th hole and collected pars at 17 and 18 for the 71.
“I played solidly and finally capitalized on the back nine,” said Nunn, an Oklahoma-native who is now an assistant golf coach at the University of Kentucky. “The conditions were great – it was hot and windy, just like home.”
Nunn regained her amateur status this past June and qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Country Club in Cleveland. She also received a few good-luck videos from her Kentucky players prior to teeing off.
“That really got the day off to a good start,” said Nunn. “It was a few inside jokes that made me laugh. They’re all excited that I’m here.”
Nunn will join her team in North Carolina next week for a collegiate tournament, but it was an event last October that gave Nunn a decided advantage on Saturday. Nunn walked four rounds at Briggs Ranch when the Wildcats played in a tournament hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio.
“I think it helped quite a bit,” said Nunn. “Seeing a course more than one time, you get a little more comfortable with it.”
Playing in the same group as Nunn, Makabe nearly matched her lowest competitive 18-hole score of 69, but she bogeyed three of her last four holes to post 72.
Burke had never played at Briggs Ranch until this week despite living just three hours from this week’s championship site. Starting on No. 10, she made five birdies against three bogeys and a double bogey. She birdied both par-3s on the outward nine (Nos. 3 and 8) and added another birdie at the fourth hole for a closing 3-under 33.
“I hit some irons close on my last few holes,” said Burke, a member of the 1998 USA Curtis Cup Team. “All my birdie putts were within 10 feet.”
Defending champion Ellen Port, 51, of St. Louis, Mo., vying to win her second USGA championship in less than a month, carded a 4-over 76. In September, Port won the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club. If she won this week, she would be the third female to win multiple USGA championships in the same year, joining Pearl Sinn (1988 Women’s Amateur and Women’s Amateur Public Links) and Jennifer Song (2009 Women’s Amateur and WAPL).
“I just felt a little sluggish today and came out flat,” said Port, who bogeyed her first three holes. “A lot of things can go haywire at this course if you get in some bunkers or bad spots.”
Kelley Nittoli, the only local player in the field, birdied her last hole for a 3-over 75. Nittoli, the wife of the director of golf at San Antonio Country Club, Jim Nittoli, qualified for the championship last month in Houston. She was playing her first competitive round in nearly two decades. Nittoli, 49, played on the LPGA Tour in 1987, but lost her card after one year.
Martha Leach, the 2009 champion from Hebron, Ky., opened with a 1-over 73, while three-time champion Meghan Stasi, of Oakland Park, Fla., had a 74.
The 2012 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur is the 28th USGA championship to be held in Texas. The Women’s Mid-Am was last held in the Lone Star State seven years ago at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond.
The second round of stroke play is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. CDT on Sunday.