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Four Amateurs Make The Grade

By Dave Shedloski

South Hadley, Mass. - Paula Creamer wasn't going to hide the truth. She doesn't wrap herself in a cocoon. She's a leader board watcher. She knows where she stands in a championship. She likes where she stands in this particular championship, a major, the biggest event in women's golf this year.

"I look at the leader boards, and I get motivation off of that," said Creamer, the precocious 17-year-old who nearly won an LPGA Tour event a few weeks ago. "I'm a competitive person and I want to know what's going on, what I have to do."

Creamer shot a 2-under-par 69 Friday at The Orchards Golf Club and joined another teen sensation, Michelle Wie in the top 10 to lead four amateurs into weekend play in the 59th U.S. Women's Open. Wie drew the biggest crowds on a sunny and temperate day, but Creamer came up big with birdies on two of her last four holes to complete 36 holes in 1-under 141.

Michelle Wie, hitting out of a choppy area Friday, was one of four amateurs to make the cut. (John Mummert/USGA)

Wie, meanwhile, a teammate of Creamer's on the recently victorious USA Curtis Cup team, shot 70 despite a late double bogey. First-round leader Brittany Lincicome, 18, couldn't keep the momentum from her opening 66, but still remained in the hunt at 143 after a 77. Also making the cut was Jennie Lee, whose 72 left her at 3-over 145. Like Lincicome, Lee, 17, is playing in her first national championship.

Sixteen amateurs competed in the first two rounds.

"My attitude [Friday] wasn't as good as [Thursday]," said Lincicome, who managed only one birdie despite hitting a remarkable 13 of 14 fairways. "[Friday] I was happy and smiling. Today I couldn't get anything started. I play better if I'm smiling."

Lincicome, who stands in 17th place, was smiling afterward, however, knowing her first goal of making the cut was a reality.

"I figured if I made the cut I was pretty good," she said. "I played OK. Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited. I would be a little more excited if I shot better."

Wie got as low as 3 under par and two behind leader Jennifer Rosales, but her three birdies on the back were offset by two bogeys and a double bogey at the 16th after she flew a wedge over the green for her third shot and failed to get up and down. Unlike Lincicome, she hit only six fairways, but came away much happier.

"I think I was playing really good," said Wie. "I felt really confident about my game. I'm getting really comfortable out there. Even those bogeys I made I felt I was playing good."

Creamer had a more steady round, with three birdies and a bogey, but felt like a much better score got away from her after hitting 15 greens in regulation. Each day she's had 31 putts, which ranks 74th in the 156-player field.

"I'm hitting a lot of fairways, I'm hitting a lot of good iron shots. I just need to make some more putts," said Creamer, whose work with swing coach David Whelan has paid off in the last few weeks, the most visible proof being her runner-up finish at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. "I'm giving myself a lot of uphill putts and that's what you want, but I'm not converting. I haven't played the best golf of my life, but I'm doing OK."

Just four strokes out of first place, Creamer was looking forward to the weekend. "This is what you work for. I've played some good golf. I've put myself in a great position. I have a chance."

She was talking about a chance to win the championship. Asked if being low amateur was meaningful if she couldn't win, Creamer's face lit up.

"Yes, it is," she said with a smile.

Dave Shedloski is a free-lance writer whose work has appeared previously on www.uswomensopen.com.