Noémie Paré's score was thrown out today, but her Canadian team is in the lead
The Spirit Invitational started at Whispering Pines outside Houston, Texas feeling more like a fall day in Calgary than one in the Lone Star State. With the third and fourth tee times, Canada set the pace on the brisk, windy day, firing a team score of 8-under par. Johnny Travale
, adorned in a hoodie in the opening holes, led the Canadian team with a 5-under 67, which also puts him at the top of the men's individual leaderboard.
Leaderboards: Overall Country | Men's Team | Men's Individual | Women's Team | Women's Individual
Henry Lee added a 2-under 70 for the Canadians, putting himself and Travale at the top of the men's team competition at 7 under. Savannah Grewal added a 71 and Noemie Paré a 78 in the best-3-of-4 team country competition.
On Canada's heels is the foursome from the United States at 6-under. After watching her team battle through a slow start, Captain Stacy Lewis was very impressed with how the group fought some early adversity.
"Just proud of the fight," Lewis said, "James (Piot) birdieing his last two holes was huge, and Rose (Zhang) had a good finish, too. So, we're still in it."
The weather seemed to impact the team early in their round.
“Rose hit the worst drive I’ve seen her hit, ever,” Lewis said after the round. “I’ve played with her before on Tour.”
However, as the weather warmed, so did Piot and Zhang; they collected birdies, helping keep their team afloat. Zhang was 2-over standing on the fifth tee, and played her remaining holes with five birdies and no bogeys. Piot’s double bogey on the seventh had him back at even par, but a birdie-birdie finish gave him a final tally of 68.
“The course fits my game,” Piot said, “You have to drive it straight out there.” Whispering Pines certainly puts a premium on driving the ball straight, but the greens are also tough, with slopes, tiers, and collection areas, combine that with cold weather and a steady wind in the afternoon, and the course is going to make these players grind.
Rounding out the top three in the team competition is France, who is 2-under. Bastien Amat and Justine Fournand both shot steady rounds of one-under 71 to help France get under par.
The team atmosphere at The Spirit is real. The men’s and women’s teams tee off in consecutive groups, teammates would stick around and watch their compatriots finish the 18th hole and exchange high-fives before heading back into the warm clubhouse. Lunch in Spirit Hall is also a glimpse into team camaraderie. Stacy Lewis sat with Zhang and Rachel Heck as they ate a post-round meal, sharing stories about her playing career and discussing family and the plans for the evening.
Piot and Zhang shared an exchange of barbs about their various USGA triumphs before Piot announced that Zhang walks off the 18th hole never knowing her score.
She shrugged and verified Piot’s claim, saying, “Yeah, I just figure it out when I’m finished.”
The college energy is also palpable, as college teammates checked in on each other after their rounds.
“I showed up thinking it would be just a fun tournament,” Piot told me after the round. “But then we got to the course and we all kind of got into tournament mode.”
If anyone doubted that the players were in tournament mode, they wouldn't have to look farther than Heck and Sam Bennett; they were not happy with their performances today. Heck is battling a cold and trying to manage it with some cough drops. She'll hope for a bounce-back round after a tough 78 today. Bennett's issue, according to him, was his putter. He three-putted four times in his one-over round. He planned to spend some time on the putting green before heading back to Camp Olympia with his teammates.
“Me and (Sam) Bennett are in a cabin with the Scottish team. They’re awesome. We’re playing all sorts of games in camp.” Piot said, “But soccer is probably the biggest. Everyone plays soccer, but when they stand in a circle and kick the ball up in the air. That’s not something I can really do.”
While Piot’s soccer future is gloomy, his golf future seems to grow brighter with every round. He’ll start the second round one shot behind the leader Travale. England’s Joseph Pagdin shot a steady 69 with one bogey and four birdies.
On the women’s side, Stanford is represented in first and second place. Zhang’s 69 has her in first, and Switzerland’s Caroline Sturza’s shot a 2-under 70. When Zhang found out her teammate shot a 70, her eyes lit up. The two Cardinal will be trying to stay out in front of five players from five different countries who all shot 71.
The individual event has a different feel this year. In past events, The Spirit awarded the gold medal to the man and woman who made the most birdies and eagles over 54-holes. This year, the individual men and women event is a true 54-hole stroke play tournament.
Additionally, The Spirit has a men's and women's combined score competition. The Canadian men lead at 7 under. The United States shot 3 under, and Belgium rounds out the top three at 2 under par.
On the women’s side, Switzerland shot two under for a one-shot lead over Colombia and France. The United States has a bit of an uphill climb after shooting a combined 3 over in round one.
ABOUT THE The Spirit International Amateur
The Spirit International Amateur Golf
Championship is world class golf event
played every other year. It features the
world’s best amateur men and amateur
women golfers as they represent their
respective country in team and individual
competitions. The 96 participants enjoy an
Olympic-like experience from the
Opening/Closing Ceremonies, international
village and competing for gold medals.
The World Health & Golf Association and
Texas Golf Association invite 24 countries
from six continents to participate. Established
in 2001, The Spirit is a biennial event that
alternates tournament years with the World
Amateur Team Championships.
Part of the uniqueness of the Spirit International are
the five simultaneous competitions:
Combined International Championship, Men’s Team
Championship, Women’s Team
Championship, Men’s Individual and Women’s
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