Walshe Leads Midway Through First Round
Eugene, Ore. – Alison Walshe, 23, of Westford, Mass., shot a 4-under-68 to take a two-stroke lead midway through Monday’s first round of stroke play at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, being played at the 6,484-yard, par-72 Eugene Country Club.
Walshe made three consecutive 10-foot birdie putts, starting at the par-4 15th hole, to power her round. She compiled seven birdies and three bogeys to finish two strokes ahead of the trio of Christine Song, 17, of Fullerton, Calif., Whitney Neuhauser, 20, of Barboursville, Va., and Carlota Ciganda, 18, of Spain.
“It’s just feels great to play well,” said Walshe, who is playing in her third U.S. Women’s Amateur. “I mean, I love this tournament. They always set it up tough so to play well on a course like this feels great.”
Walshe hasn’t played many events this summer but when she has they have been high-profile. She finished an undefeated 4-0 to help lead the USA to victory at the Curtis Cup Match played on the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland earlier this summer, and then made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., in late June. Outside of playing in the Women’s North & South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort’s No. 2 Course, she has spent the last few weeks at home in Massachusetts.
“I’ve just been practicing a lot and grinding on my short game, which was key here,” she said. “That’s pretty much why I scored well today.”
Despite her recent successes, Walshe admitted to some anxiety heading into Monday’s first round at Eugene.
“I was a little nervous, to be honest,” said Walshe. “I think I put a lot of pressure on myself and I came out here in the practice rounds and I was like, ‘Man, this course is tough.’ I kind of psyched myself out, but I was trying to go the other way last night, I was like, ‘Oh I can score well,’ and then I started out with two birdies today and that just got my mindset in the right place and I was more comfortable playing off of that.
“I still have to go out there and still try to score as low as I can, but I am obviously in a little more comfortable spot, knowing I don’t have to score real low tomorrow to try to make the cut, and obviously that’s the goal, to make match play, because then anything can happen.”
Song’s 2-under 70 put her in good position for her goal coming into the week.
“I just wanted to make the cut and I think I should do that, so I’m pretty happy,” said Song, who is playing in her second Women’s Amateur. She did advance to match play in her previous Women’s Amateur appearance, in 2006 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore., about two hours north of Eugene.
Despite finishing with a bogey on the par-4 ninth hole, the 18th of her round, Song was pleased with her 2-under round on Eugene’s difficult layout.
“My shots were okay but I was putting it really well today, which is very important,” said Song. “It’s really fast and there is a lot of break and a lot of these greens are two-tiered so that makes it difficult.”
Ciganda also played in the 2006 Women’s Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge, where she advanced to the third round. At Eugene Monday, she opened with two bogeys but came back to record a 2-under 70.
“I was playing good,” said Ciganda, the 2007 British Women’s Amateur champion. “I think I just started a little bit nervous but then I started playing well. Then I made three birdies and I was more relaxed.”
Ciganda is one of the few players in the field who is not using a caddie, but it didn’t seem to slow her down.
“I think when you have a caddie he is going to help because you are more concentrated on your game,” said Ciganda. “But we are used to not having a caddie. I prefer to have a caddie but if that is not possible, no problem.”
Neuhauser does have a caddie for the championship – her mother, Susan. Neuhauser, the lone Women’s Amateur rookie among the leaders, recorded four birdies and two bogeys en route to her 70.
The 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kimberly Kim, 16, of Pahoa, Hawaii, opened with a 10-over 82 and will have her work cut out for her if she hopes to make the cut to match play. Kim became the youngest winner in the championship’s history when she won at age 14 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club two years ago.
The field’s remaining 78 players, including 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Amanda Blumenherst, 22, of Scottsdale, Ariz., will finish their first round Monday afternoon. After a second day of stroke play Tuesday, the U.S. Women’s Amateur field will be reduced to 64 players for match play. The first round of match play is scheduled for Wednesday, the second and third rounds will be played Thursday and the quarterfinal matches are on Friday. The semifinals will be played Saturday and the 36-hole championship final will be played Sunday.
Story written by Beth Murrison of USGA Media Relations. For questions or comments, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.