One needs accuracy to be successful at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, and Andrea Lee certainly was on target Monday.
“I had four tap-ins for birdie, all within 1 foot,” Lee said after shooting a 5-under 67 to take the lead after the first round of the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.
“I was kind of shocked. I don’t usually have that many tap-ins. I only had one regular birdie putt out there of about 5 feet.”
The first two rounds of the USGA event – being played at Sycamore Hills for the first time – are stroke play. While a medalist will be crowned after today, the real prize is that the top 64 players advance to match-play competition.
“Being medalist is great, too, but it’s not really important,” said Lee, 14, who is from Hermosa Beach, Calif. “(It’s about) just going through all the rounds in match play and going out on top.”
She is one stroke up on Lilia Khatu Vu of Fountain Valley, Calif., and Kathleen Scavo of Benicia, Calif.
Tied for fourth at 3-under 69 are: Nicole Morales of South Salem, N.Y.; Bethany Wu of Diamond Bar, Calif.; Bailey Tardy of Norcross, Ga.; Samantha Wagner of Windermere, Fla.; Yueer Feng of Orlando, Fla.; Kelsey Ulep of Rocklin, Calif.; and Hannah O’Sullivan of Paradise Valley, Ariz.
It was Lee’s first-ever round in the Girls’ Junior, but she came in with more knowledge of Sycamore Hills than most. She competed twice here in the Junior PGA Championship, a four-day stroke-play event. She tied for 17th last year at 6 over, and in 2011 she tied for 20th at 14 over, never shooting better than 71.
“I didn’t play very well (in the Junior PGA), but I came out today and just relaxed and tried to play well, and I did,” Lee said. “I just wanted to try my best. This course, you need to think a lot. It’s pretty tough. I just tried to play it one shot at a time.”
It helped that she was having fun, and she credited her caddy, Fort Wayne’s Carter Eifert, for keeping her loose.
“I felt really comfortable,” she said. “I wasn’t even thinking about the score. I was just having fun.”
While Lee seemed to be at her best from the first tee shot, some others needed a kick-start to get going.
Vu, 15, didn’t get a birdie until the par-5 fifth hole. She fell back to even par at the par-4 8th before a nice birdie on the par-4 9th.
“I hit (my approach) a little past the hole, and I wanted to two-putt because it was a long putt,” she said. “But then it just went in, so I was like, ‘Oh, OK, I guess I can keep going.’ It got my confidence up a little bit.”
Wu, 16, opened her round with a bogey.
“(Then, on) No. 2, I lost my drive right and then chipped out and then hit in front of the green, and then I chipped in for birdie. It really got me going,” she said.
Wagner, 16, bogeyed the first hole but birdied four of the next five.
O’Sullivan, 15, was 2 over before getting a birdie on No. 4 and getting hot and finishing with 23 putts.
“I was feeling good standing over all of my putts and rolling my ball really well,” O’Sullivan said.
“I love the golf course. It’s so nice and pretty generous off the tees. And the greens are rolling really nicely. It presents a lot of challenges, but as long as you put yourself in the right positions and manage your game, you should be OK.”