Sister, sister: Leovao's and Craig's lead U.S. Women's Four-Ball
Jasmine and Janae Leovao (USGA Photo)
Jasmine and Janae Leovao (USGA Photo)

Janae Leovao picked a good time to make her first competitive hole-in-one. That ace—on the 171-yard second hole at Oak Hills Country Club—buoyed Leovao and her twin sister, Jasmine, to an 8-under 63 in Saturday’s first round of the 9th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

The 20-year-old twins from Oceanside, Calif., share the lead with another set of sisters, Caroline and Catie Craig, of Sautee Nacoochee, Ga. The 63s are the second-lowest 18-hole scores in the championship’s brief history.

In 2019, at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla., Faith Choi and Aneka Seumanutafa carded a 60 in Round One.

The 2021 champions, Alexa Saldana of Mexico and Savannah Barber of Fort Worth, Texas, sit one stroke back with New Mexico State University teammates Alexandria Armendariz of Las Cruces, N.M., and Emma Kaisa Bunch of Denmark, one of the 10 players on the final Annika Award list for the nation’s top collegiate female golfer. Greensboro, Ga., 16-year-olds Kallyn Black and Lili Nelson were another stroke back at 6-under 65.

Weather greeted the players with overcast skies and, temperatures in the mid-to-low 80s, and winds in the teens.

Jasmine Leovao is ranked No. 629 in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com Women's Rankings. Caroline Craig is ranked No. 229, and Catie Craig is ranked No. 214.

After sister Jasmine opened with a birdie on the par-4 first, Janae watched her 8-iron tee shot on No. 2 find the hole to get the side to 3 under.

“I definitely was shaking after that, so I had to settle down and forget about it,” said Janae when asked if the team’s mindset suddenly changed. “Put the past in the past and keep moving forward like nothing happened. And now I can celebrate that I got a hole-in-one.”

The early theatrics proved to be a good omen for the Long Beach State University sophomores. Janae rolled in a 33-foot birdie on the par-3 13th and Jasmine, the 2023 and 2024 Big West Conference individual champion, got up and down from a greenside bunker on the 188-yard, par-3 closing hole, converting a 12-footer.

Jasmine came in fresh off winning the Big West Conference title (Janae tied for third) and finishing eighth in last week’s NCAA Cle Elum (Wash.) Regional, which earned her an individual berth to next week’s NCAA Championships at La Costa in Carlsbad, Calif. But the sisters are also dealing with academic finals scheduled for next week.

“I’m winging it with my finals,” said Jasmine. “[We] probably should start thinking about it. Right now, I’m focusing on golf, and I’ll deal with school later.”

School is in the rearview mirror for the Craig sisters – Caroline, 23, completed her graduate year at Indiana University after transferring from the University of Georgia, while Catie, 21, is a rising senior at Western Kentucky University. Both arrived at Oak Hills full of momentum. Caroline shared the Big 10 Conference individual title while helping the Hoosiers win the team championship. Catie, the 2023 Conference USA champion who advanced to the Round of 16 in last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, posted top-10s in all 10 events in 2023-24, including a pair of victories.

Catie didn’t qualify for regionals and Indiana failed to advance from the East Lansing (Mich.) site, so both could fully focus on competing in their first U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. Despite a bogey on the par-4 seventh, the duo registered nine birdies.

“We just hit really solid shots,” said Caroline, who has aspirations of being a golf coach. “We gave ourselves [birdie] opportunities every single time. And if we got out of position, we just tried to play smart.”

Rising college juniors Saldana (University of Houston) and and Barber (University of Oklahoma), arrived at Oak Hills with a sour taste from NCAA regionals. The Cougars missed advancing to finals by a stroke in Auburn, Ala., while Barber’s Sooners had a rough final day in Las Vegas.

They resorted back to the good vibes they had three years ago in their championship run, registering seven birdies.

Bunch, meanwhile, enjoyed a monster 2023-24 campaign for New Mexico State, winning five tournaments, including the Conference USA championship to earn a berth in the NCAA Cle Elum Regional as an individual, where she tied for 24th in chilly conditions. So the CUSA Player of the Year and Danis National Team member arrived at her first USGA championship with solid momentum.

Armendariz, however, didn’t post a competitive round for the Aggies as a freshman. Nevertheless, she delivered the side’s shot of the day on the 161-yard, 13th hole. Her ball stopped inches from the flagstick for a tap-in birdie. Bunch added a final birdie on the par-5 15th, but three closing pars left them one behind the leaders.

Each of the 64 sides will play their final round of stroke play on Sunday with the low 32 scorers advancing to match play, beginning on Monday. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend.

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ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball

The U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball, the newest USGA championship, was played for the first time in 2015 at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon. It immediately became one of the USGA's most popular tournaments. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those women with a Handicap Index of 14.4 or lower. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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