Colorado Springs, Colo. – Amy Anderson, all of 18 and hailing from tiny Oxbow, N.D., walked up the seventh fairway at The Broadmoor on Thursday, her brother Nathan alongside carrying the bag. As they approached the large scoreboard, they couldn't help but notice.
There, at the top, leading the 66th U.S. Women's Open was the name Amy Anderson.
Before the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion even had time to pinch herself, Nathan chimed in with a brotherly wisecrack. Well, somebody better get a picture of that, he joked, because it's not going to be up there very long.
As it turns out, the joke’s on Nathan. His sister's name will be up there all night. With weather conditions causing a suspension of the first round, Anderson remains atop the scoring ledger, joined at the hip with the No. 2-ranked player in the world, Cristie Kerr, tied for the lead at the national championship.
There's plenty of time for pinching, plenty of time for snapshots. It's surreal, Anderson said. It's way more than I could ever have imagined.
Anderson got through 12 holes on Thursday before the combination of rain, thunder and lightning ended the day's activities. She will begin Friday playing the 13th hole as a most unlikely contender.
Anderson's hometown boasts a population of some 300 and hardly rates a blip on the universal golf radar. Cold temperatures and short days limit the opportunities for Anderson to play at home to about six months a year, from the middle of May to November.
At that point, she occasionally practices at an indoor facility that features a 60-yard range. Otherwise, she takes the winter off, going months without hitting a shot off real grass. Yet, she is the real deal.
Anderson has built a dynamic amateur resume. She was the medalist at the Women's Open sectional in Edina, Minn., to qualify for this week at The Broadmoor. Two years ago, she completed a remarkable week at the 2009 U.S. Girls' Junior Championship at Trump National in Bedminster, N.J., capturing stroke-play medalist honors before winning the match-play portion of the championshipby defeating 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kimberly Kim in the final, 6 and 5.. She also has advanced to match play in the past two U.S. Women's Amateurs.
The seasonal patterns of golf may not be a natural fit for North Dakota, but Anderson wouldn't be anywhere else. After a stellar high school career, in which she graduated with honors at the age of 16, she might have attended any of the top golf colleges in the nation. Instead, both she and Nathan, who is 19 months older and also an outstanding amateur, both attend school and play golf at North Dakota State in Fargo, 20 minutes from their front door.
I basically wanted to stay near my swing coach and near my family, said Amy, who has sculpted a fluid, powerful swing with the help of coach Dale Helm of Mayville, N.D. I was only 16 and I wasn't too keen on the idea of leaving home right away. I knew I was going to go to North Dakota State.
In two seasons at North Dakota State, Anderson has won 10 tournaments, five as a freshman, five more as a sophomore. She was named the Summit League Golfer of the Year in both 2010 and 2011 and recently was honored as an NCAA Division I second-team All-American.
That said, Anderson said she never has experienced a challenge quite like The Broadmoor.
It's a lot different, she said. I have never really played around mountains. The greens are really tricky. But I had my brother on the bag, and he's figured them out really well. That's helped a ton. I think he knows my game a little better than I do.
Thus far, Team Anderson has managed the Donald Ross/Robert Trent Jones Sr. test like veteran mountain folk. Amy hit nine of the 12 greens on Thursday, missed only one fairway and needed just 19 putts before the horn sounded. She made birdies at Nos. 5 and 9, knocking her approach shot to within kicking distance of both flags. Her first-round card is bogey-free.
Given the start, Anderson readily acknowledged she would have preferred to keep going. The 30 or so people who made the trip from North Dakota to follow her around the grounds, no doubt would have enjoyed more holes as well.
Everybody wants to get out and finish, said Anderson, who plays at the same club as past U.S. Mid-Amateur champion/USA Walker Cup member Michael Podolak. It kind of throws everybody off.
But long breaks are nothing new for Anderson. She said the months she has to put the game aside at home in North Dakota are a positive, a chance for her to reboot her hard drive for the spring/summer competition.
I love it, she said. I get refreshed and when spring comes, I'm ready to go.
An accounting major in school, Anderson will be ready to go again on Friday, but the parameters will be a little different. She will begin as the championship co-leader instead of the little-known amateur from North Dakota. Nevertheless, she insisted she will start Friday the same way she finished on Thursday – loving every minute of it.
I like being the underdog, it's something I feel very comfortable with, said Anderson, who clearly used that role in winning the Girls’ Junior. I don't expect to go out and win this, or to continue playing like this. I mean, I'm going to try and I'm going to work as hard as I can to do that.
But [mostly], I'm just going to go out there and have fun, because this is an awesome experience that happens once in a lifetime.
On the other hand, no need to run out and take a photograph this week. Short North Dakota golf seasons not-withstanding, Amy Anderson is threatening to make playing in major championships a regular occurrence.