U.S. Women's Open: Amateur Aine Donegan hovers near the lead at 3-under
06 Jul 2023
by Justin Golba of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Aine Donegan Rankings

Aine Donegan (USGA photo)
Aine Donegan (USGA photo)

Aine Donegan finished the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open at the top of the leaderboard and in position to contend this weekend at Pebble Beach.

And her clubs just got there two days ago.

Donegan arrived at Pebble Beach on July 2, but her clubs got left behind.

Donegan was traveling from Scotland, where she competed in the Vagliano Trophy, a women's match-play event between Europe and Great Britain and Ireland, at Royal Dornoch. Her clubs were left in Newark, New Jersey after traveling from Scotland to Dublin to New Jersey and then to San Francisco. Then, on July 4, her clubs finally arrived. However, her driver was broken.

"I had to play my first practice round with a full PING set and I hit my driver very well," Donegan said. "We thought we might have a dilemma when my clubs arrived."

Donegan added "Its like everything happens for a reason. The clubs were late and my driver was smashed and I had no choice but to put the PING driver my bag. Luckily for me, It all worked out."

Donegan did not let the club snafu hurt her confidence.

"It was a little bit frustrating but Gary, my coach and caddie, just said ‘don’t let this be another distraction, there is nothing you can do about it’ and there wasn’t," Donegan said. "There was no point in stressing about it because there was nothing we could do about it."

The LSU Sophomore and Indiana transfer first round didn’t start great, bogeying the first two holes to start 2-over. She then made par on the next three holes and eagled the par-4 15th hole with a hole out from 96 yards hole and birdied 17.

"I hit the shot and I knew it was going to be good and it just bounced, bounced and then it was back to even and we just kind of started again and it made me more comfortable," Donegan said about the eagle.

As she made the turn to the front nine (she started on 10), she birdied holes 2, 3, 4 and 6 to propel her to top of the leaderboard at 4-under par.

"The three holes I birdied I had the same yardage into the hole so that is my new favorite yardage," Donegan said.

Donegan added "I had a good feeling of where the ball was going all day which was great because that is not a feeling you have all the time in golf."

A bogey on the last gave her a 3-under 69 finish. She sat tied for second place when she finished her round. And just like that, the woman whose name is pronounced "An-ya" was getting interviewed in the USGA Media Center. You can watch that interview below.

Donegan qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at The Peninsula Golf Club in San Francisco just over a month ago.

And at first, she didn’t even plan on playing in it. She was persuaded by Irish golfer and friend Anna Foster.

"She said it to me about a month before the event,” Donegan said to RTE Sports. “She rang me. She was like 'Oh do you want to play in the US Open qualifiers?’ I said ‘Grand’.”

Donegan added "What I liked most is that I never expected it, I never expected to get through. I didn’t even know about the qualifier. I think there’s like ten qualifiers and I didn’t really know about them until my friend (Foster) had said it to me. I owe it all to her really."

Donegan qualified by one shot and became one of just two Irish golfers in the field.

2023 has been good to Donegan as she recorded five top 15 finishes at LSU this Spring and finishing third at the SEC Championships. She also finished tied for 25th place at the NCAA Women’s Southeast Regional and made the match play portion of the Ladies British Amateur. She finished All-Big Ten Second Team in 2022 at Indiana and All-SEC Second Team in 2023 at LSU.

She recorded three top 10 finishes throughout the course of the season.

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