Tardy’s First-Round Results Reflect Lessons Learned July 14, 2017 | BEDMINSTER, N.J. By Lisa D. Mickey

Only 20 years old, Bailey Tardy is already an experienced U.S. Women's Open competitor, making her third start. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Women's Open Home

As the saying goes, “The third time is the charm.”

At least that’s the hope of amateur Bailey Tardy of Peachtree Corners, Ga., who is competing in her third U.S. Women’s Open Championship this week. Tardy posted a first-round score of 2-under-par 70.

The rising junior at the University of Georgia missed the 36-hole cut in both the 2014 and 2016 championships, but this year, she arrived in New Jersey with a better sense of what she needed to do and how to handle her nerves in the biggest week of the year.

“I’m so happy with the way I played,” said Tardy, 20, following her first round on Thursday, which was interrupted by a two-hour weather delay. “I hit a lot of greens [16 of 18] and played really smart golf out there. The one time I got into trouble, I got up and down to save par.”

Tardy got off to a good start by busting her tee shot on the par-5 first hole and reaching the green in two shots to set up a 20-foot eagle attempt and a tap-in birdie. Her second birdie came on the 11th hole, where she gently coaxed in a 10-footer from above the hole.

A three-putt bogey on No. 16 from 40 feet was her only scorecard blemish, but Tardy responded with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. She had one final birdie chance on the 18th from 8 feet above the hole, but couldn’t get that putt to drop.

It was a more confident round than her previous Women’s Open efforts and it was made possible by the experience of her previous shortfalls.

“In my first two times in the Open, I was very intimidated by everything – the golf course, grandstands, cameras, you name it,” said Tardy. “I’ve been around cameras more in college, which has helped me become more comfortable here. It’s been easier for me to block out those kind of things.”

Tardy knew she needed a way to feel more comfortable heading into the competitive rounds, so she surrounded herself with a familiar support group.

“I’m trying to be around people I get along with who can help me talk through my nerves,” she said. “If I were a pro, it might be different, but I’m just out here trying to learn from the best players and from every situation I’m in.”

She also wisely asked local caddie John Havay to carry her bag this week. They met when she came to Trump National for a practice round about a month ago and he worked for her.

Tardy was on hole No. 15 when play was suspended at 4:20 p.m. Thursday. When play resumed, she was able to complete her round unscathed, scrambling for par on the 15th and carding a par-bogey-birdie-par finish.

“Hitting fairways and greens was the key, and I managed to stay out of the rough,” she added. “When you are in it, you just have to be very smart.”

While she has yet to win her first USGA title, Tardy’s USGA record has been solid. In the 2013 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, she shot consecutive rounds of 69 to finish as medalist at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind. It is one of four Girls’ Juniors in which she has competed.

She also advanced into match play in the 2014 and 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur, reaching the Round of 16 in 2015.

In addition, she was a member of the USA Curtis Cup Team in 2016, posting a record of 3-2.

When asked to pick her career USGA highlight, Tardy is quick with a reply.

“Playing the U.S. Women’s Open is always a highlight and to finally play well just kind of knocks down that barrier to give me more confidence to compete in a professional-level event with the best players in the world,” she said.

Tardy said she has worked hard to improve her on-course attitude, admitting that her attitude at last year’s Women’s Open “was kind of poor.”

“I would just get down on myself when other players in my group hit it farther than I did or drained a long putt,” she said. “That distracted me from learning from the things these professionals are doing to stay positive while they play. Now, I’m doing a better job of that and I’m picking up tips from my fellow competitors.”

Tardy will play as an amateur in a professional tournament in Japan next week, then she will return home and prepare to compete in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Aug. 7-13 at San Diego Country Club before it’s time to return to college.

A financial planning major at Georgia, Tardy plans to complete her college eligibility and earn her degree before entering LPGA Q-school after she graduates.

“College golf helps and I play in a strong conference,” she said. “Plus, the SEC [Network] covers the SEC Championship and they have cameras out there, so it helps to be around TVs and cameras, friends on tee boxes, camera flashes and stuff like that. It’s good training for how it will be on tour some day. Playing college golf has also helped me with time management.”

When asked what it would take for her to call her third U.S. Women’s Open a success, Tardy was pragmatic.

“It’s all about taking baby steps – making the cut to play on the weekend,” she said. “I don’t want to shoot 2-under and think that it’s going to be a breeze on Friday. I think I’m still going to need to put up a good score to make the cut, but making the cut is something I want to do.”

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

More from the 72nd U.S. Women's Open