Yachun Chang (L) and Lei Ye (R) (J.D. Cuban/USGA photo)
TARZANA, CA (April 28, 2018) - Teenagers Yachun Chang and Lei Ye matched the 18-hole championship record with an 8-under-par 64 for a two-shot lead after Saturday’s first round of stroke play.
Last year, Brittany Fan and Esther Lee fired a 64 in Round 2 of stroke play at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club.
Chang, 17, of Chinese Taipei, who has signed to play at the University of Arizona in the fall, and Ye, 16, of the People’s Republic of China, registered four birdies on each of the two sides of El Caballero Country Club.
Their round was punctuated by three consecutive birdies – all recorded by Ye – starting on No. 15. Her wedge approach from 113 yards stopped inches from the hole. On the 120-yard, par-3 16th hole, Ye, No. 150 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™, converted a 12-foot birdie putt. She then reached the 468-yard, par-5 17th hole in two shots with a driver and hybrid before two-putting for a 4.
“On the front nine after the first few holes [Yachun] started playing really well and on the back I did really well, so we kind of split the work,” said Ye, who moved to the U.S. two years ago to attend the IMG Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla. She has verbally committed to attend Stanford University in the fall of 2019.
This is Ye’s first appearance in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, while fellow IMG Academy mate Chang, No. 136 in the WAGR, lost in the Round of 32 last year with partner Jaravee Boonchant, now a freshman at Duke University.
Four other teams posted 6-under 66s, including 2017 quarterfinalists Annick Haczkiewicz and Sydney Smith, and 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Erica Shepherd and Megan Furtney.
Las Vegas teenagers Haczkiewicz and Smith, who are headed to Brigham Young University and Colorado State University, respectively, this fall, jumpstarted their first round with three consecutive birdies from the third hole. Haczkiewicz, 17, rolled in a 30-footer on the third hole and then Smith, 18, stuffed a wedge approach from 110 yards out to 2 feet at the fourth. Haczkiewicz followed with another birdie.
Shepherd, 17, of Greenwood, Ind., and Furtney, 17, of Chicago, Ill., both of whom have verbally committed to attend Duke University in 2019, opened with a bogey and then registered five consecutive birdies. Despite two second-nine bogeys, they managed to finish with back-to-back birdies.
Floridians Izzy M. Pellot, 13, and Chloe Schiavone, 16, of Jacksonville; and Californians Mika Jin, 16, of Fremont, and Ashely Shim, 14, of San Mateo, each birdied the par-4 18th hole for their 66s.
Each side will play another 18 holes on Sunday at El Caballero. Following play, the field will be cut to the low 32 sides for match play, which begins on Monday. Should there be any ties, a playoff will take place to determine the final spots in the draw.
The first starting time on Sunday is 7 a.m. and the final group goes off at 1:24 p.m. PDT. All groups begin from the first tee.
Kelly Wilson, of El Dorado Hills, Calif., played Round 1 of stroke play solo because her partner, Lynne Cowan, of Rocklin, Calif., could not get to El Caballero until Sunday. Wilson carded an 81.
Three sides matched the championship’s nine-hole scoring mark of 31 on El Caballero’s outward nine: 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Erica Shepherd and Megan Furtney; Lauren Gomez and Olivia Yun; and Hailey Borja and Chayse Gomez.
Irvine, Calif., 17-year-olds Yoonju (Mary) Shin and Jennifer Cai, who were added to the field Friday after a last-minute withdrawal, shot 3-under 69 and are tied for 11th.QuotableYachun Chang on why she gels with Lei Yei: “Usually one of us hits first and sees how it goes. If it’s good or relatively good, [then the second player] can just go for it. If not, we play it safe. We also check the line [of our putts] really well.”
Ye on if the team felt like a low round was coming at the start of the day: “I don’t think we thought about 8 under exactly, but we just tried to do our best.”
Annick Haczkiewicz (partnering with Sydney Smith) on the key point of their round: “When we birdied No. 3. It was a really long putt that I made and then Sydney birdied the next [hole] with a nice shot she hit up close. Then I birdied the next (No 5). And that got the momentum going.”
Haczkiewicz and Smith on what makes their partnership work: “We really just trust each other. We always balance each other out” (Smith).
“We always have someone to fall back on. If I go into the trees, Sydney makes a putt. We always have each other’s back. This year, we’re just a little bit stronger. We’ve probably each added 10 yards [of distance].” (Haczkiewicz)
Emily Nash, who gained national attention last fall for winning a district boys’ event in Massachusetts only to be denied the individual title due to state high school federation rules (shot even-par 72 on Saturday with partner with Allison Paik): “I’ve played in lots of tournaments. This definitely feels a lot different. It feels like an LPGA [Tour] event. I’ve been to watch some of those and it feels like that to me, [especially] with how they treat us, with the player’s lounge. It’s so awesome.”
Erica Shepherd on the five consecutive first-nine birdies: “We got off to a really good start, we were obviously making a lot of birdies. When one of us wasn’t making a birdie, we had an easy par putt, so to have the other one there helped take that pressure off you. It played a big role.”
Shepherd on playing with a future college teammate: “It’s great to have a good friend there. Just having that encouragement. If we make it to match play, that’s easily our favorite format. So if we can get there we’ll be in good shape.”View results for U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball