U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Lee, Morard Each Card 67s to Share First-Round Lead August 5, 2019 | West Point, Miss. By David Shefter, USGA

Michaela Morard closed with four consecutive birdies to post one of two 67s in Round 1 on Monday at Old Waverly. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Women's Amateur Home

What Happened

Temperatures crept into the mid- to high-80s on Monday for the first round of stroke play in the 119th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Old Waverly Golf Club. But the sweltering heat and humidity didn’t seem to bother cool veterans such as Andrea Lee and Alabama native Michaela Morard.

Lee, 21, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., the No. 2 player in the Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking™ and a Stanford University senior; and Morard, 17, of Huntsville, each carded 5-under 67s to share the lead after Round 1.

A member of the 2016 and 2018 USA Curtis Cup Teams, Lee made five birdies over her first nine holes – Old Waverly’s inward nine – and then came home in even-par 36. Morard, who plans to attend the University of Alabama in 2020, finished with four consecutive birdies from No. 15, including a 6-footer on her closing hole.

“Yeah, just getting through stroke play first because once that part of the competition is over it’s pretty much anyone’s ballgame,” said Lee, whose best finish in five previous U.S. Women’s Amateurs is the semifinals in 2014 at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y. “Match play is a whole different type of tournament, so it’s going to take a lot, and I’ve just got to dig deep and stay really patient throughout the week, and hopefully win a few matches.”

RELATED CONTENT: Video Interview With First-Round Co-Leader Andrea Lee

Once Morard, who was just named to the 2019 USA Junior Solheim Cup Team, straightened out her driver on the inward nine, she started giving herself more chances. She nearly reached the par-5 15th in two – she got up and down for birdie – then knocked a 6-iron approach from 155 yard to 4 feet on No. 16 to set up another birdie. On the 136-yard, par-3 17th, Morard’s 8-iron into the wind stopped 3 feet from the flagstick. On the closing hole, she hit a three-quarters 8-iron from 139 yards to 6 feet.

“On the back nine …  I figured out how to keep my foot down in my swing, which I wasn’t on the front, and then I started hitting fairways, which gave me good shots into the green,” said Morard, who lost in the Round of 32 in the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago when Rose Zhang played 8-under golf over 12 holes. “And then I started just hitting them to like 3 or 4 feet and then making putts.”

Lauren Hartlage, 21, of Elizabethtown, Ky., who started on No. 10, finished one stroke back, duplicating what Morard achieved over the last four holes of the inward nine. But after making the turn, Hartlage played the final nine holes in even-par 36. The University of Louisville senior was scheduled to defend her Kentucky Women’s Open title this week but qualifying for the Women’s Amateur changed her itinerary. Not that she’s complaining.

“I just made some putts,” said Hartlage. “I had three putts inside 10, 20 feet, and then on 17, I hit it to 3 feet on the par 3. My game is feeling good.”

Four players posted 3-under 69s, including Albane Valenzuela, 21, of Switzerland, the runner-up in 2017 and Lee’s Stanford teammate. Valenzuela, who qualified for her third U.S. Women’s Open in June and shared low-amateur honors in the Evian Championship two weeks ago in France, played her final nine holes – Old Waverly’s outward nine – in 3-under 33.

Andrea Lee stayed cool on a sweltering day in Mississippi to post 5-under 67 in Round 1 of the 119th U.S. Women's Amateur. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

“I started hitting my driver a little bit better and my irons were probably a little closer, too,” said Valenzuela, who was one of two amateur golfers to represent her country in the 2016 Summer Olympics. “I think the back nine is a little bit more challenging on this course, maybe a little bit trickier holes, and I was in the rough two times, so that penalized me.”

Also registering 69s were 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball runner-up and University of Arizona sophomore Ya Chun Chang, 18, of Chinese Taipei; incoming Auburn University freshman Megan Schofill, 18, of Monticello, Fla.; and Vanderbilt junior Morgan Baxendale, 20, of Windermere, Fla.

Notable

  • The start of Round 1 was delayed one hour to prepare the golf course after Old Waverly received 1.5 inches of rain on Sunday evening. More than 1,000 lightning strikes were recorded within 20 miles by the USGA’s on-site meteorologist, Jake Swick.

  • Each player received a personalized letter at registration from 1999 U.S. Women’s Open champion Juli Inkster, who won the first of her two titles at Old Waverly Golf Club. Inkster, a three-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, is on-site this week as the lead analyst for FS1’s television coverage. FS1 will broadcast live from the championship beginning on Wednesday.

  • Gianna Clemente, 11, of Warren, Ohio, the third-youngest competitor in the championship’s history, carded a 9-over 81. That score matched what Lucy Li shot as a 10-year-old when she became the youngest qualifier in championship history in 2013. Latanna Stone, who qualified as a 10-year-old in 2012, shot 82 in her first round.

  • Li, the No. 3 player in the WAGR and the U.S. Women’s Amateur medalist in 2018, opened with a 2-over 74. Gina Kim, of Chapel Hill, N.C., the low amateur in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, carded a 5-over 77. Kim helped Duke University to the NCAA title in May.

  • Lauren Greenlief, 28, of Ashburn, Va., the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, made 11 consecutive pars to close out her even-par round of 72. She posted the lowest score among the seven mid-amateurs (25 and older) in the field. Two-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Julia Potter-Bobb, 31, of Indianapolis, Ind., shot a 1-over 73.

  • Lei Ye, 18, of the People’s Republic of China, who won the U.S. Girls’ Junior two weeks ago at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis., carded a 1-over 73. The runner-up, Jillian Bourdage, 17, of Tamarac, Fla., posted a 76.

  • The stroke average for Round 1 was 75.67, with the 412-yard, par-4 11th hole playing as the most difficult (4.51). The easiest hole was the 118-yard, par-3 12th, which played to an average of 2.97. The only other hole to play under par was the 523-yard, par-5 ninth (4.98).

Quotable

“Honestly with all the rain, they did a great job of keeping care of the course. It’s tough, but it plays really well, and if you play well, then you can definitely score.” – Lauren Hartlage on the conditions after the course received 1.5 inches of rain

“Yeah, it was great. I think it’s always fun to share these moments with him. [Alexis] caddied for me as well at Evian [two weeks ago], and it’s kind of a family business. I had my dad (Alberto) caddieing for me at the U.S. [Women’s] Open this year and my mom (Dianne) caddied for me at the U.S. [Women’s] Open qualifier [in California], so it’s always fun to share these moments with family.” – 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Albane Valenzuela on having her brother back on the bag this week

“The weather aspect is a definitely a huge advantage because where I’m from, it gets so humid in the summer because it’ll rain and then be so humid for the next week. So, I was used to that, which helped.” – Alabama native Michaela Morard

“I watched Juli Inkster play [and win] the 1999 Women’s Open out here, and I was nine months old. So really it was a little bit emotional when I walked out here and saw all the USGA signs up because I’m really just so grateful to play this game and where it’s brought me, so I’m super excited to be here.” – Ole Miss junior Conner Beth Ball, of Starkville, Miss., on playing Old Waverly this week, and having the honor of hitting the first ball of the championship

“It was a lot of fun. Gianna has a great game for an 11-year-old. It made me feel really old being 17 years older than her. But she really held it together, was very focused, very sweet girl.” – 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief (even-par 72) on playing with Gianna Clemente

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

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