Alexa Pano (USGA photo)
KINGSTON, Tenn. (Aug. 6, 2018) – The last anyone heard from Alexa Pano, she had played 51 holes of championship golf in one day and, despite a gallant effort, fell just short of her first USGA title. That was just 16 days ago at the U.S. Girls’ Junior, and now Pano is back at the top.
Pano, the 13-year-old of Drive, Chip and Putt fame (plus the Netflix documentary “The Short Game”), came back strong Monday at the Golf Club of Tennessee. She birdied her way to the solo lead in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur. At 5-under 66, Pano is one shot out of a seven-way tie for second.
Pano, of Lake Worth, Fla., had four birdies on her way to a back-nine 31 that ultimately set her apart from the field. She had three birdies and two bogeys on the front.
“I was playing about the same on the front,” she said. “I think I got to 2 under on the front and then just had one really stupid bogey and missed like two birdie opportunities. But it was kind of just consistently the whole day from fairway to green. I was putting it inside of 10 feet consistently, and my putting was just being clutch.”
In between the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur, Pano got in some match-play practice and some junior bonding at the AJGA’s Wyndham Cup, an annual event that pits top juniors from the eastern half of the United States with those from the western half. Pano went 2-0-2 in those matches, but felt like it upped her confidence in match play.
“I'm feeling pretty good about my match play game right now, and stroke play felt pretty good today,” she said. “As long as I just keep doing what I did today.”
Pano had an afternoon tee time, and snuck up the leaderboard late in the day. For much of the morning, Korea’s Bohyun Park occupied the top spot with her 4-under 67. Park missed the cut in this event last year, and up until this point in the summer, she has mostly played AJGA events. She won the Under Armour/Jordan Spieth Championship at the end of June.
“I was hitting the ball good, and today my putting worked out pretty good, so I think that's what put me to a lot of birdies. Hitting into the rough was tough, but I hit it out good, just made a couple up-and-downs.”
Among the more notable names in the traffic jam at 4 under are a group of the Pac-12’s best: UCLA’s Patty Tavatanakit, Stanford’s Ziyi Wang, Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan and Arizona State’s Olivia Mehaffey.
But for a bogey on her final hole, Pagdanganan would be in the lead. The Arizona senior is still known to golf fans at the player who holed the unbelievable eagle putt on the final hole of regulation at the NCAA Women’s Championship that kick-started the Wildcats’ national-title run.
“I'm actually pretty happy with how I played,” she said. “This is a really tough course, tough greens. I guess staying patient is a huge factor and just waiting for your putts to fall in is just really important thing that I have to keep in mind. But I'm really happy with how I played.”
Pagdanganan is making her USGA championship debut this week. Earlier this summer, she played the LPGA’s Marathon Classic on a sponsor exemption awarded to one member of the NCAA title-winning team and made the cut, tying for 67th.
Notable mid-amateur performances came from Lauren Greenlief, the 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amatuer champion (1 under, T-31), Ina Kim-Schaade, runner-up at the 2000 U.S. Girls’ Junior (1 under, T-31) and Ellen Port, a seven-time USGA champion (even, T-48).
The field will be cut to the top 64 players after Tuesday’s round and match play will begin on Wednesday.
ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Amateur
The U.S. Women's Amateur, the third
the USGA championships, was first played
at Meadowbrook Club in Hempstead, N.Y.
event is open to any female amateur who
USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4.
Women's Amateur is one of 14 national
championships conducted annually by the
10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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