A common adage is that the golf ball doesn’t know the age of the person hitting it. That certainly applies to the first round of the 122nd U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay, where Alice Ziyi Zhao, the second-youngest player in the field at 13 years/6 months, shot a 6-under-par 67 to take a one-stroke lead.
This is the first USGA championship for Zhao, who was born in Shenyang, China, and now lives in Irvine, Calif. She showed no sign of nerves, however. Starting on No. 10, Zhao carded six birdies over her first nine holes to make the turn in 30. She cooled off a bit after that with an even-par score on her inward nine but still topped a field of 156 that includes USGA champions, Curtis Cup Team members and players who have competed at the highest levels of the game.
It was a solid first round for three of the four players with strong Oklahoma ties competing. Oklahoma State golfers Maddison Hinson-Tolchard (69) and Han Hsuan Yu (71) are tied for fifth and 12th, respectively. University of Tulsa golfer Lilly Thomas of Bentonville, Ark., shot 73 and is tied for 29th. Faith Belmear of Owasso struggled to an 82 and is tied for 147th.
“Coming into today I didn’t really have any expectations,” said Zhao. “The course is really beautiful, and I just tried to enjoy my round and not think about shooting low.”
One stroke behind Zhao at 5-under-par 68 is another Chinese-born Irvine resident, Angela (Yilin) Liu, along with Laney Frye of Nicholasville, Ky., and Casey Weidenfeld of Pembroke Pines, Fla. Three more players are tied for fifth place at 4-under 69: Kelsey Bennett and Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, both of Australia, and Brooke Seay, of San Diego, Calif.
Chambers Bay, a municipal course built on the site of a former gravel quarry overlooking Puget Sound, is known for its sloping fairways and challenging green complexes. Many players are seeing it for the first time, and they emphasized the importance of hitting to the proper sides of greens and staying out of the tall, wispy fescue rough.
Seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port, who at 60 is the second-oldest player in the field, birdied her last two holes to shoot a 1-over 74, good for a tie for 45th place.
Round 2 will take place on Tuesday, with tee times again beginning at 7 a.m. and continuing through 2:12 p.m. Pacific Time. The low 64 scorers after 36 holes will advance to match play. If a playoff is necessary to determine the last match play spots, it is scheduled to take place on Tuesday evening.