Notebook: Nicholas Within Striking Distance
By Alex Miceli and Rhonda Glenn
North Plains, Ore. - Fueled by good memories, Alison Nicholas is
again contending at the scene of her greatest triumph. In 1997 she
dueled sentimental favorite Nancy Lopez down the stretch at Pumpkin
Ridge to win her second major championship and her first U.S. Women's
Fast forward to 2003. On a longer, firmer Witch Hollow course,
Nicholas didn't have a sound showing in her first round, turning
in a 4-over par 75. Her second round, a 4-under 67, was the lowest
of the day Friday and moved her into a tie for sixth at even par.
|Since winning the Women's Open in 1997, Alison
Nicholas - shooting 4-under 67 Friday - hasn't come close to
the same success. (John Mummert/USGA)
"I needed to play well," said Nicholas. "I was unsettled at the
start, took a five, and then just said, ‘Look, settle down, try
to enjoy yourself; remember about last time you were here,’ and
that's all I did - think about that and what a great occasion that
was. I settled down and made some putts and hit some shots close
and got lucky on a couple of occasions, and that's the way it goes."
Nicholas hit 11 of 14 fairways, 12 of 18 greens and had only 26
putts that included 10 one-putt greens en route to her 67. Her final
hole, the 18th, was one of those one-putt greens, where the Englishwoman
sunk a 25-foot birdie putt.
"I just wanted to hole that putt at the last for the crowd," said
Nicholas. "I thought I'd like to have a cheer here; I thought I
might as well hole it then."
Nicholas' win in '97 was the pinnacle of her career, and she has
since had only one additional win in the United States: the 1999
Hawaiian Ladies Open. By her own admission she struggled after her
major trophy, putting undue pressure on herself to win again.
"When things haven't been gone well I always look back and think
what have I done in my career," said Nicholas. "I think I just have
to be grateful and anything else is a bonus right now."
Nicholas' season in the U.S. has been limited to just three tournaments.
Of those, she made one cut at the City of Hope LPGA Classic, where
she finished tied for 13th. With her expectations limited, Nicholas
came to Pumpkin Ridge with moderate goals, high hopes and lots of
"All I wanted to do really was make the four days -- that was my
goal," she said. "Just so I could just enjoy being at Pumpkin Ridge
for four more days in the U.S. Open."
Now that she accomplished her goal of making the cut, Nicholas'
approach is simple: Have fun, enjoy Pumpkin Ridge and the crowd.
Amateur Leigh Ann Hardin started the day tied for 55th at 4-over
par, nine shots behind first-round leader Mhairi McKay. A second-round
68 vaulted her 38 spots up the leaderboard and tied with Aree Song
as low amateur going into the weekend.
Of course, an eagle 2 on the par-4 sixth helped Hardin with her
"I just played solidly early on and then on the sixth hole I holed
out from 180 and that kind of set the pace. I played pretty solidly
from then on out," said Hardin of her first under-par round in three
appearances at the Women's Open.
Hardin's previous best was a 77 in her second round of the 2001
Open, but her 75-68 in her first two rounds of this year's Open
has put in a place she hasn't been before - in the field on the
"This year is my third Open. I've had a little more experience,"
said Hardin. "My game is a little bit better and I just want to
keep getting better and better."
Hardin had won the U.S. Girls Junior in 1998, but never really
experienced playing with professionals or enjoyed the large galleries
at professional events. With three years under her belt at Duke
and after competing on last year's Curtis Cup team, Hardin has now
become a more seasoned player.
"I definitely feel a lot more comfortable," said Hardin. "I think
having a couple more years under my belt is great experience and
that's what I need. It just seemed a lot easier [Friday] than it
did a couple of years ago."
Eight amateurs made the cut, led by Song and Hardin, who are both
at 1-over 143, seven shots off the lead. Other amateurs to make
the cut included Irene Cho, Mollie Fankhauser, Elizabeth Janangelo,
Jane Park, Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie.
The seventh hole was the second hardest hole at Pumpkin Ridge in
the second round. With a stroke average of 5.529, the par 5 allowed
only 10 birdies and 73.5 percent of the field could not hit the
green in regulation.
Not one of the top 10 players on the leaderboard birdied the hole
and Laura Diaz, Rosie Jones, Hilary Lunke and Angela Stanford made
bogeys there. Diaz was 3-over in the first two days on the seventh.
Kellee Booth withdrew after five holes of the second round
because of a shoulder injury. Booth, now a professional, was
a member of the USA Curtis Cup team in 1996 and 1998.
Angela Sanford has made the cut for the first time in the
Women’s Open. Now at 2-under-par, she previously missed the
cut in 2000, 2001 and 2002. She used to work at a hamburger
drive-in near Fort Worth, Texas, where she wore roller skates to
deliver food to customers. She also won the LPGA tournament
last week, her first victory on the tour.
Michelle Wie, when asked what it would take for her to get in contention
to win, said, "A good score." She hit her drive
327 yards on the 13th hole, saying, "That was acceptable."
Mhairi McKay and her family are members at Turnberry in Scotland.
She was once a ball spotter during the British Open and a couple
of times worked on the scoreboard.
Hilary Lunke is the former Hilary Homeyer, a member of the 2000
USA Curtis Cup Team and the 2000 Women’s World Amateur Team.
In 2001, she lost to Wie in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links
Championship and went out to follow her in her match the next day.
Alex Miceli is a free-lance writer from the Golf Press Association.
Rhonda Glenn is the Manager of Communications for the USGA.