Annabelle Pancake takes the lead at the Sea Island Women's Amateur
Annabelle Pancake (Clemson Athletics Photo)
Annabelle Pancake (Clemson Athletics Photo)

The top-ranked player in the field will carry the lead into the final round Friday of the Sea Island Women’s Amateur on the Seaside Course in coastal Georgia. 

Clemson standout Annabelle Pancake is on top of the scoreboard in the tournament at the world-renowned Sea Island Golf Club with a 6-under-par score after the first 36 holes, giving the No. 26-ranked player in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com Women’s Rankings a three-shot lead going into the closing round of the first summer tournament in big-time amateur golf. 

Pancake, recently named an honorable-mention All-America selection after finishing her senior season with a seventh-place finish at this month’s NCAA tournament, carded a second-straight bogey-free round of 66 on the par-70 Seaside layout on Thursday to go with her 2-under 68 score in the first round on Wednesday. 

“What I am doing with my game is working well, and I’ve just been continuing that,” she said. “It’s just been boring golf, especially yesterday. I think I had all pars on the back nine. It’s just been steady golf, with occasional birdies here and there.”

Her nearest challenger going into the final round is Savannah De Bock, a standout freshman for the University of Georgia this past season who posted an even-par 70 in the second round after sharing the lead following the opening round when she shot 3-under 67 with four birdies and a late bogey.  

De Bock will join Pancake in the final grouping on Friday. She finished round two with two birdies and also two bogeys on her card. 

“I didn’t play as well as I did yesterday, but it was still good. I hit a lot of good shots, just didn’t putt as well and make as many birdies,” she said. “I’m not mad, it was a solid round.”

Kentucky standout Laney Frye, who has played with Pancake each of the first two days, will also play in the final pairing. Frye is contending for the tournament championship again after finishing second in each of the first three Sea Island Women’s Amateur tourneys

The All-America player for the Lady Wildcats, who just wrapped up her senior season, posted a 2-under 68 in the second round after opening this year’s tournament with an even-par score on Wednesday. 

First-round co-leader Nicole Gal, who plays at Ole Miss, is also at 2-under through 36 holes and will also start the final 18 four back of the lead. Gal shot 71 in round two after grabbing a share of the early lead with her 3-under 67 in round one. 

The Ole Miss sophomore from Ontario, Canada, had four bogeys and three birdies in her round on Thursday. One of her birdies came at the par-4 16th where she holed out for an eagle in the opening round. 

Gal will play in the next-to-last pairing on Friday along with Oral Roberts golfer Avery Blake who posted a 67 on Thursday to move into contention after opening with a 71 in the first round. Rounding out the pairing will be Michigan State’s Ella Weber who also is from Ontario, Canada. Weber got into red figures after two rounds with a 69 on Thursday after shooting level-par over the opening 18 holes. 

The only other player under par after the first two days of play - there are seven in all - is Sophie Linder, one of Gal’s teammates at Ole Miss. Linder, a freshman for the Rebels this year, shot 69 in round two after a first-round 70 on Wednesday. 

Four players are at even-par following the first two rounds and will go into Friday six off the lead pace. One of those players is Andie Smith who fired a 5-under 65 on Thursday for the low round thus far in this year’s tournament after posting a 75 in round one. 

The Duke golfer has played in all four Sea Island Women’s Am events with top-10 finishes each of the first three years. The 65 score on Thursday was her low round here. She posted three rounds in the 60s last summer when she tied for sixth overall. 

The Sea Island Women’s Am was played in July its first three years. This year, the tournament moved to May while also being chosen as the first event of the inaugural Women’s Elite Amateur Golf Series.

The new series consists of five events spread throughout summer schedule in which the players will compete for the Elite Amateur Cup and will earn points in the series standings based on their finishes in these five tournaments. The Cup winner will earn exemptions into USGA competitions and also several professional tournaments. 

A similar series was formed for the amateur men’s game prior to the 2021 summer season. 

Pancake hasn’t played in the Sea Island tournament since the first one back in 2021 when she tied for 21st at 4-over for the three rounds. She hadn’t been back to the course which plays along the Atlantic Ocean and offers breath-taking views of the seashore since that inaugural event, but was anxious to return this year for the budding affair.  

“I love it because it’s next to the ocean,” she said. “It’s beautiful and peaceful.”

Pancake, an All-ACC perfomer who played in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April, has her game in top form, too, especially her wedges which have keyed her steady play thus far this week. 

That was apparent on the 338-yard, par-4 eighth hole which was her next-to-last hole on Thursday. She hit a wedge from 111 yards inside a foot for her fourth birdie of the round. Pancake tapped in for her three to go to 6-under for the tourney before stepping aside as her playing partners putted out on the green.  

“Wedges, it’s nice to have those dialed (in),” Pancake said. “There’s a lot of shorter holes, and if you can hit those close and give yourself an opportunity for birdie, you’ve definitely got an advantage. There’s definitely a lot of grain and slope on the greens, so it’s easier to make a putt that’s shorter and you don’t have to take as much in.” 

Pancake has plenty of reasons to feel good about finishing on top after Friday’s final round, but by no means does she feel safe atop the leaderboard with 18 holes to go. 

She knows a low score is out there to be had and is also aware that the tournament’s record score of 61 was shot last year in the first round by Frye who will play alongside her in the final grouping on Friday. 

Frye held a five-shot lead going into the closing round last year when eventual champion Morgan Ketchum ran her down with a 7-under 63 which is the second-lowest score in tournament history to claim a one-shot victory. 

“This course is very scorable,” Pancake noted. “If your wedges are on and you can make some putts, you are gonna play really well. Some of the holes are shorter, especially the par-5s. If you can take advantage of that, you can go low. But you have to be careful. If you get greedy, you can pay for it, too.”

Friday’s final round begins with a two-tee start at 7:30 a.m. local time. The leaders tee off at 9:40.

Tourney Tidbits:

Again?: The first three installments of the Sea Island Women’s Amateur have ended with a player who plays for a school in the Southeastern Conference or Atlantic Coast Conference taking home the winner’s trophy.

A look at the leaderboard going into the third and final round of the 2024 tournament shows that there’s a good chance that happens again. 

The tournament leader going into the final 18 holes is of course Annabelle Pancake who recently graduated from Clemson, where she was a two-time All-ACC selection for the women’s golf team. 

The champion last year was Morgan Ketchum who plays at Virginia Tech, another ACC school. 

The first two winners were from SEC schools. The 2021 champion, Hannah Levi, was from Mississippi State, while the 2022 champ, Kayla Holden, came from Tennessee. 

The SEC has five players among the top 11 players on the current leaderboard who are even par or better going into Friday’s round. 

In addition to Pancake, the ACC also has Andie Smith from Duke who sits at even-par going into the final day. 

In all, seven of the top 11 players on the leaderboard play at ACC and SEC schools. 

On the Bag: In her post-round interview with media members Thursday, Pancake noted that her fiance’ is serving as her caddy this week. 

They got engaged just last Friday. He caddies regularly back at her home club in Zionsville, Ind. 

“He’s caddied for me twice,” she said. “He caddied for me for the first time last summer in a qualifier, and I won the qualifier. And then he caddied for me in the Dow LPGA team event. We did well. We made the cut in the tour event.

“He keeps me relaxed. He’s definitely a calming presence. We have fun.”

Homeward Bound: Savannah De Bock will be headed back to Belgium for the remainder of the summer on Saturday. 

Obviously, she would love to take the champion’s trophy back home with her following a win at Sea Island and a nice freshman campaign in Athens where she earned SEC All-Freshman honors. 

The Belgian who is just three shots back of Pancake going into the closing round was familiar with the U.S. before coming here to play collegiate golf, though. 

“I did a few tournaments here,” she said. “And, my family is very huge America fans, like we love the U.S.. Every year, we would come to the U.S. to visit the national parks and stuff. It’s like a second home to me.” 

De Bock is ranked No. 86 in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com Women’s Rankings

She finished fourth at the World Junior Girls Championships and helped Europe win the Junior Solheim Cup before beginning her collegiate career.   

Results: Sea Island Women's Amateur
1INAnnabelle PancakeZionsville, IN70068-66-70=204
2KYLaney FryeLexington, KY50070-68-70=208
T3SCAndie SmithBluffton, SC40075-65-69=209
T3TNSophie LinderCarthage, TN40070-69-70=209
T5ThailandThanana KotchasanmaneeThailand40070-74-66=210

View full results for Sea Island Women's Amateur

ABOUT THE Sea Island Women's Amateur

Patterned after the highly successful Jones Cup Invitational tournaments at Sea Island and Ocean Forest Golf Club, which began in 2001, the Women’s Amateur follows the Jones Cup tradition of drawing the nation’s best female golfers to the world-class setting of Sea Island. The format is 54 holes of stroke play with a field limit of 84 players.

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