Kiara Romero and Anna Davis lead the Girls' Junior after round one (USGA Photo)
As they find themselves leading the 74th U.S. Girls' Junior Championship
after the first round, Kiara Romero of San Jose, Calif., and Anna Davis of Spring Valley, Calif., are very familiar with each other.
Romero and Davis both shot rounds of 4-under of 68, but their respective paths there were very different.
Romero shot a bogey-free round of 68 while Davis made eight birdies and four bogeys en route to her 68. Davis won the 2022 Augusta National Women's Amateur and is heading to Auburn to play her collegiate golf. Romero is heading to Eugene to play for the Oregon Ducks.
Two months ago, they were partners in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash., reaching the Round of 16.
Last week, they were paired together again in four-ball and foursomes (alternate-shot) at the Wyndham Cup in Santa Rosa, Calif., a Ryder Cup-style event conducted by the American Junior Golf Association.
They prepared for the Championship at the United States Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Club’s Blue Course by playing two practice rounds together this past weekend.
“We were both hitting it really well in our practice round yesterday,” said Davis of Romero. “So it’s nice to see her up there.”
A year ago, at this championship
in Bowling Green, Ky., Romero took out medalist Saki Baba in the Round of 32 – she would win the U.S. Women’s Amateur a few weeks later – before bowing out in the Round of 16. But Romero’s not thinking about medalist honors or even winning the title just yet.
“I’m just focused on my game and the shot that is right in front of me,” said Romero.
Davis is an incredibly accomplished player in the amateur world and draws on that prior experience in these elite championships.
“I think it just helps me mentally, knowing that I’ve played against the best,” said Davis. “Knowing I’ve beaten a lot of the best, I have a good shot against these girls, who are elite golfers. It helps you mentally, just knowing that you’ve been in bigger situations, you’ve been in pressure situations and you can handle situations like these.
Davis was recently named to the USA team for the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship this fall in the United Arab Emirates. She will be joined at Auburn in 2024 with her twin brother Billy, who will play in next week’s U.S. Junior Amateur in South Carolina. Davis has competed in the last two U.S. Women’s Opens as well as the 2022 AIG Women’s British Open and Amundi Evian Championship. She’s made five cuts in eight starts in LPGA Tour-sanctioned events.
Romero, competing in her third U.S. Girls’ Junior, closed her round with birdies on Nos. 17 and 18, hitting an 8-iron to 8 feet on the par-3 penultimate hole and a 7-iron from 165 to 15 feet at the last.
Kaili Xiao and Tarapath Panya both sit T3 after rounds of 3-under 69. Xiao shot a bogey-free round while Panya was 4-under through 14 holes, but bogeys on holes No. 15 and 18 and a birdie on No. 17 got her to 3-under.
While 15 golfers finished under par, the stroke average in Round one was 76.87.
A trio of players made holes-in-one. Veronika Exposito, of The Woodlands, Texas, registered her ace on the 162-yard, third hole, using a 5-hybrid. Later, Emerie Schartz, of Wichita, Kan., aced the 143-yard seventh hole with a 7-iron, and she was followed by 2023 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier and 14 year old Angela Zhang of Bellevue, Wash., on the same hole. Zhang also used a 7-iron. These are the 23rd, 24th and 25th known holes-in-one in championship history, and the first since 2021. For Schartz, it was her second competitive ace in a month.
The three holes-in-one matches the most in a single U.S. Girls’ Junior. Three were also made in 2004 at Mira Vista Golf Club in Fort Worth, Texas, including one by future U.S. Women’s Open champion Paula Creamer.
ABOUT THE U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur
The Girls Junior Amateur is one of 14
championships conducted by the USGA.
event is open to female golfers who have
reached their 19th birthday prior to the
of competition and whose USGA Handicap
Index does not exceed 9.4. 36 hole
play qualifying from which 64 players
to match play. Regional qualifying held at
around the United States.
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