U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Saso’s 65 Leads After Day 1 of U.S. Girls’ Junior July 22, 2019 | Stevens Point, Wis. By David Shefter, USGA

Yuka Saso's 65 on Monday set a competitive course record at SentryWorld. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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What Happened

A year ago, Yealimi Noh rode the momentum of her Girls Junior PGA Championship victory to a championship run in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. Yuka Saso certainly wouldn’t mind following the same script in 2019. The 18-year-old from the Philippines is off to a strong start at SentryWorld, carding a 7-under 65 in the first round of stroke play on Monday.

Saso, who produced a two-stroke victory at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford, Conn., 10 days ago, is three strokes better than Sophia Bae, Nicole Adam and Lei Ye.

The No. 24 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), Saso produced one of three bogey-free rounds. She registered birdies on Nos. 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 15, and concluded the day with a deft pitch to 2 feet to save par. Her score also broke the competitive course record at SentryWorld.

“I wasn’t really thinking about [my win at the Girls PGA],” said Saso, one of six players in the field to compete in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.). “I’m just trying to get to know the course well. I’m really happy.”

This is Saso’s fourth U.S. Girls’ Junior, but she hasn’t ever advanced past the Round of 32. She did reach the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa.

“I am just focusing on what I have to do [on Tuesday],” said Saso. “The next day is my goal.”

After a weekend that saw 3.02 inches of rain fall on the property between Friday afternoon and Saturday night, the players were greeted with chamber-of-commerce conditions with temperatures in the low- to mid-70s and winds that generally hovered between 8 and 16 mph.

Bae and Adam took different routes in posting their 4-under-par 68s. Bae, 15, of Norwood, N.J., double-bogeyed the par-4 fourth hole before playing her final 14 holes in 6 under par. Adam, 17, of Pinehurst, N.C., went out in 4-under 32, and came home in even-par 36.

Adam briefly got to 5 under for the round before suffering consecutive bogeys on 12 and 13. She capped her round with a 40-foot birdie on 17.

“That was my best putt of the day,” said Adam, who is planning to attend the University of North Carolina in the fall of 2020.

Bae, a rising high school junior who has already committed to play for Duke University in 2021, birdied three of the four par-5 holes. Her final birdie came on No. 17 when she converted a 15-footer.

“I think my putting worked really well on the back nine,” said Bae. “On the front nine, I struggled a little bit, but I came back, so I’m happy.”

Ye, 18, of the People’s Republic of China, who was the runner-up in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship with partner Ya-Chun Chang, holed a 12-footer for birdie on 18 to post her 68. She said her wedge game from 80 to 100 yards out was strong on Monday, giving her plenty of birdie opportunities.

“Some dropped and some didn’t,” said Ye, who is headed to Stanford this fall. “That’s just the way it is.”

Notable

  • Besides Saso, the other two other players to post bogey-free rounds on Monday were Jillian Bourdage and Julie Misemer.

  • Nineteen players managed to better par in the first round. The 418-yard, par-4 second hole ranked the hardest at 4.551, while the par-5 fifth was the easiest at 4.885. It yielded 39 birdies and two eagles.

  • Erica  Shepherd, 18, of Greenwood, Ind., the 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion and 2019 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball champion, carded a 2-over 74.

  • Last year’s runner-up, Alexa Pano, 14, of West Palm Beach, Fla., posted a 3-over 75.

  • Preston Summerhays, fresh off his U.S. Junior Amateur victory on Saturday at Inverness Club, was on-site to watch his younger sister, Grace, play her first-ever USGA championship round, a 2-over 74. Preston plans to caddie for Grace on Tuesday. She had Preston’s Inverness caddie, Mitch Meyer, on her bag on Monday. Preston caddied for Grace in a Utah State Amateur qualifier earlier this year.

  • Lauren Kim, fresh off a tie for 12th in last week’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on the LPGA Tour with partner and 2019 U.S. Women’s Open competitor Sarah Schmelzel, is caddieing for her younger sister, Caris. Caris opened with a 79.

Quotable

“I played five holes during Saturday's practice round [prior to the suspension of play], and the whole 18 yesterday. It's a really nice course. The bent greens really fit my eye. I am from Ohio and I played on bent greens there.” – Nicole Adam on SentryWorld

“If I wasn’t here [on Saturday], I wouldn’t have believed there had been a storm. This course was in such pristine condition. It’s amazing. We had a tornado watch sitting in the locker room. And today it was in such beautiful condition. They had it perfect for us.” – Lei Ye on the course conditions

“It was actually really nice. It was a little [windy] on the back nine, but it was totally fine. I dealt with it.” – Sophia Bae

It was amazing. I just see how hard he works and I’m so proud of him. I see the hours he puts in.” – Grace Summerhays, a 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior competitor, on her brother Preston’s U.S. Junior Amateur victory on Saturday

“No added pressure there. We’re just two totally different people.” – Summerhays on whether there’s extra pressure to succeed this week

“This is my first U.S. Girls' Junior. What I know is that the field is incredible. Every girl here is a super solid player. So I need to get my emotions level and keep plugging away.” – Jillian Bourdage, the runner-up in this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with Casey Weidenfeld, after a 3-under 69

“I was sad that he didn’t win. I watched it on TV as I was preparing for this tournament. My family and I are really proud of him. [There’s a little extra] pressure and motivation [on me this week]. – Jiarui (Joyce) Jin, the younger sister of last week’s U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Bo Jin, after carding a 3-over 75. Bo is at another tournament this week and can’t attend the Girls’ Junior in person

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David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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