Photo courtesy of Pinehurst Resort
Ho Yu An admits she knew three things about Pinehurst before she arrived last week.
1- That it’s famous.
2- The Payne Stewart statue is here.
Well, prepare to feel old, y’all…
3- “I had a lot of people tell me that Pinehurst is the best place to retire,” she said.
Sounds like she’s got us pegged.
The 17-year-old from Chinese Taipei knows something else after the first two rounds of the 119th Women’s North & South Amateur: No matter what Donald Ross said about golf and sand going together, it’s a heck of a lot better to play Pinehurst from the fairway. Also, Pinehurst No. 2 is really hard.
And, one more thing – now she’ll get another shot at it.
An, at seventh in the World Amateur Golf Ranking is the top-ranked player in the field at the Women’s North & South, recovered from a disastrous start to the championship on No. 2 by making seven birdies on Pinehurst No. 4 on Wednesday, finishing a day in which she started 60-some spots outside of the cut line for match play with a 6-under 66 and into a tie for 10th.
“I told myself before the round, ‘I just have to do better,’” An said.
An birdied the first hole, then followed with birdies at the fourth and fifth holes, quickly getting herself back in the mix. She added four more birdies around a lone bogey on the back nine, rocketing up the leaderboard and well inside the cut line that determined the 32 seeds for match play.
“After I was 3 under through five, I thought, ‘OK, I feel good today,’” An said.
It was a stark difference to a day before on No. 2. An had trouble finding the fairway off the tee then, particularly with her driver. Time and again she was forced to play from the native sandscape lining the fairways of No. 2, and time and again, her approach shots missed their targets on No. 2’s famed greens.
No. 4 was a different story.
“I was in the fairway a lot today,” An said. “My irons are my strength, and I’m much, much better from the grass than the sand.”
The championship moves on to match play, where all rounds will be played on No. 2. It gives An another chance at Ross’s masterpiece.
“Everyone has it tough on No. 2,” An said. “But it’ll be really nice to get back to No. 2.”
If An would like to learn more about Pinehurst now that her stay has been extended, perhaps she could lean on Ohio State’s Aneka Seumanutafa. Like, An, the 2017 Girls’ North & South Junior Champion worked her own magic on No. 4 on Wednesday, recovering from a 77 on No. 2 in Tuesday by being 10 shots better on No. 4, turning in a 5-under 67 to move to even par in medal play and into a share of fifth.
“No. 2 is definitely a hard golf course, and the front nine yesterday was really rough for me,” Seumanutafa said. “But I feel like I got it going again on the back nine, and then today was able to feel comfortable playing golf and just seeing what No. 4 would give me.”
Seumanutafa could rely on her past experience at Pinehurst. She played in a host of U.S. Kids events in Pinehurst while a junior golfer, won here in 2017 and has since played her way into match play a few times at the Women’s North & South.
“I just love this place,” she said. “Pinehurst is like my second home. There are a lot of Buckeyes around here who always come out and support me. I am not a stranger here.”
And if not Seumanutafa, perhaps An could reach out to another familiar face at Pinehurst – 2017 Women’s North & South Champion Isabella Fierro, who continued her steady play with a 1-under 71 on No. 2 to come in at even par for the championship, tied with Seumanutafa and three others.
But they’re all chasing Abbey Daniel.
Daniel had one of the better rounds on No. 2 on Tuesday, finishing at even par, then made six birdies Wednesday en route to a 3-under 69 to finish as the championship’s medalist and take the top seed into match play.
“No. 2 is obviously a more conservative course, you have to pick your misses and be really diligent where you’re leaving your ball,” said Daniel, who played in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open. “No. 4 is more of an aggressive player’s golf course, you can go after more pins, be more aggressive with your putts.”
And that’s the style Daniel, of Mississippi State, prefers. After all, she could credit Wednesday’s round to, well…to anger.
“I hit a great drive (at the first), a great iron, and then I had a 3-putt,” she said of her start. “That definitely got some nerves out. Then I was a little mad.”
She birdied the second hole and was off and running. Now, though, as the championship shifts to match play, she hopes to be able to translate that style back to No. 2.
“Match play on No. 2 – I feel like it opens a bit more shots,” Daniel said. “You can be a little more aggressive because match play is all about birdies, it’s all about those momentum putts, so being a little bit more aggressive on the greens and getting the ball close.
“That’s the kind of golf I like to play.”
Round of 32 Match Play -- July 15
No. 1 Abbey Daniel vs. No. 32 Gina Kim, 7 a.m.
No. 16 Grace Curran vs. No. 17 Addison Baggarly, 7:08 a.m.
No. 8 Ashley Lau vs. No. 25 Gurleen Kaur, 7:16 a.m.
No. 9 Jessica Spicer vs. No. 24 Teresa Toscano Borrero, 7:24 a.m.
No. 4 Hsin-Yu Lu vs. No. 29 Blair Stockett, 7:32 a.m.
No. 13 Savannah Grewal vs. No. 20 Mychael O’Berry, 7:40 a.m.
No. 5 Aneka Seumanutafa vs. No. 28 Ivy Shepherd, 7:48 a.m.
No. 12 Ashley Gilliam vs. No. 21 Allisen Corpuz, 7:56 a.m.
No. 2 Brooke Rivers vs. No. 31 Amanda Sambach, 8:04 a.m.
No. 15 Anna Morgan vs. No. 18 Maria Bohorquez, 8:12 a.m.
No. 7 Catherine Park vs. No. 26 Rina Tatematsu, 8:20 a.m.
No. 10 Ho Yu An vs. No. 23 Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, 8:28 a.m.
No. 3 Sophie Zhang-Murphy vs. No. 30 Megan Schofill, 8:36 a.m.
No. 14 Jenny Bae vs. No. 19 Casey Weidenfield, 8:44 a.m.
No. 6 Isabella Fierro vs. No. 27 Kelly Sim, 8:52 a.m.
No. 11 Katherin Muzi vs. No. 22 Brigitte Thibault, 9 a.m.
Round of 16 -- July 16
Quarterfinals -- July 16
Semifinals -- July 17
Championship -- July 17
12:45 p.m. ET
by Alex Podlogar, Pinehurst Resort