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Lincicome Leads

But Rosales, Others Taking Hard Charge Toward Amateur

By Ken Klavon, USGA

South Hadley, Mass. - In the history of the U.S. Women's Open, only one amateur has won the event. That was 36 years ago.

With a 5-under-par 66 showing in the first round of the 59th Women's Open Thursday at the Orchards Golf Club, 18-year-old Brittany Lincicome took a step toward joining Catherine Lacoste in the record book.

Eighteen-year-old Brittany Lincicome reacts to a missed chip on the 17th hole. But she did end up getting up and down. (Sam Greenwood/USGA)

On the 6,473-yard, par-71 layout Lincicome parlayed a record-tying 30 on the back nine into the outright lead. She tied Pamela Wright (1994), Juli Inkster (1997) and Raquel Carriedo (2002) for the lowest nine-hole score in a Women's Open.

"I didn't think that I'd score this well, maybe 1 under, but not this," said a beaming Lincicome, who added that she is going to turn pro this fall after the U.S. Women's Amateur. "It was just one of those days where I really wasn't thinking. I just tried to hit the ball, have some fun and play some golf."

Two weather-related delays totaling 3 hours, 27 minutes caused suspensions of action during the afternoon and play was halted for the day due to darkness at 8:05 p.m. with 75 golfers still on the course. Play resumed at 7 a.m. Friday with second round starting times pushed back one hour.

The forecast for Friday doesn't look promising either. Scattered storms, some that may contain hail, are predicted to produce gusty winds and heavy rainfall.

Patricia Meunier-Lebouc of France birdied her final four holes to stand alone in second at 4-under 67. After completing her first round Friday at 1-under 70, Jennifer Rosales came out on fire, birdieing her first three holes to creep to within one stroke of the lead.

Forty-seven-year-old Beth Daniel, another player who had to finish the first round Friday morning, carded a 2-under 69.

"Everyone talks about my age, but I don't see it as a factor," said Daniel. "Because, honestly, I think I'm in better shape now than I was even 10 years ago."

Two Australians, Michelle Ellis and Katherine Hull, were near the top of leader board along with Pat Hurst, 2001 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links champion Candie Kung of Chinese Taipei, 1998 Open champion Se Ri Pak, Michelle Redman and Kim Saiki at 1-under 70. Saiki, the 1983 U.S. Girls' Junior champion, won her first pro event last weekend in Rochester, N.Y.

But five others in the afternoon, including two-time U.S. Women's Open champion Sorenstam (2 under through 15 holes) were making a charge at 2 under or better when play was called. Perhaps feelings the effects of the layoff, Sorenstam picked up on the treacherous 16th hole Friday and proceeded to card a double bogey. She finished even.

Fourteen-year-old Michelle Wie, in the field that has an average age of 28.15, was tied with two-time Open winner Juli Inkster at even-par 71 after carding an eagle on the 527-yard par-5 ninth hole, her final hole of her round.

"I made some boo-boos out there," said Inkster, who three-putted No. 18 for bogey.

There were few 'boo-boos' made by the home-schooled Lincicome of Seminole, Fla. She had five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in her round. On the magical back nine, she racked up an eagle and three birdies.

At the 377-yard 15th hole, Lincicome decided at the last minute to use driver after using a 5-wood in the practice rounds. The drive landed in the left rough, some 120 yards short of the flagstick. No problem. Lincicome punched a 7-iron from a wooded area toward the front of the green hoping to just get on. When she saw the ball disappear, she started crying.

"I started crying and everything," she said when the ball disappeared into the hole.

Later as she approached the 18th green, her emotions again got the best of the home-schooled teenager who graduated this spring.

"I was so nervous coming up the 18th, I was trying to guide it into play," said Lincicome, winner of the prestigious Harder Hall Invitational this past January. "I'm not that kind of player; it's either all or nothing."

Overall, she played consistent, striking 71 percent of her fairways and 72 percent of the greens in regulation and taking just 26 putts.

Streaky would be the word to describe Meunier-Lebouc's round. Beginning on No. 10, Meunier-Lebouc stumbled early with a double bogey on No. 12.

"I played a great shot, it bounced out back of the green and that was not a good place to go," she said. "I said, 'That's starting very well today.' "

After chipping for birdie on the 18th hole, her ninth of the round, Beth Daniel allows for a smile. Daniel was at 3 under when play was halted. (Sam Greenwood/USGA)

It was no time to panic because in her two previous Opens the 2003 Kraft Nabisco champion learned that mistakes can't be averted. After the early faux pas, she carded six birdies to no bogeys. Plus, with a 69 in the second round of last year's Women's Open that gave her a brief share of the lead, she knew one hole wouldn't ruin the championship.

After the double bogey she hunkered down and concentrated more, visualizing each putt as the most important one of the championship. "My routine was so much better that I told myself the putting would come. Soon after, it came," said Meunier-Lebouc, who one-putted eight times after the double bogey.

Yet the ghost of Donald Ross had to be smiling. As a bevy of players with morning tee times signed their scorecards, many of them labeled the greens as perplexing.

Playing in her fifth Open Ellis, who has never held the lead at any point, went bogey free over her final 11 holes. But it wasn't easy, she said, citing tricky greens that can clutter the mind at wrong moments.

"Donald Ross . he's 1 up on me at the moment," said the two-time Australian Amateur champion. "The greens aren't overly quick by any means. It's just really tough to read them."

Defending champion Hilary Lunke, part of last year's Pumpkin Ridge playoff trio of Kelly Robbins and Angela Stanford, got off to a dubious start on the front nine, bogeying and double bogeying the first two holes. After being three over at the turn thanks to an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 9, Lunke reeled off four more birdies to finish at 1-over 72.

The highlights had to be birdie putts on the 13th and 17th holes. Pitching in to 13, Lunke's ball rolled to the back fringe before she converted a 20-footer. Then after sticking a 5-iron approach shot to 18 feet of the hole on 17, she deftly knocked in an 18-footer.

Citing nerves on the first two holes, Lunke said she calmed herself with lots of self talk.

"In this [championship] I know there are going to be bogeys and double bogeys," she said. "I knew the birdies were going to come.

"I wasn't as comfortable as last year. Last year I felt as though I couldn't miss. I just told myself, 'Stay patient, stay patient, it's just golf. Right the ship.' "

For all her detractors, the specially-exempt Wie sent a message that she wasn't about to cave in. She capped off the round by driving the ball 307 yards in the fairway, leaving her about 220 to the hole. Grabbing a 5-wood from father B.J. Wie, who is caddieing for the first time since last year's Open, the prodigy watched as the ball came to a rest 9 feet from the hole.

On a course that won't give up much scoring this week, Wie needed it. She was coming off a frustrating bogey at the par-4 eighth, one of the few holes tabbed by the players as a scoring opportunity. 88-yard eighth, one of the few holes tabbed as a scoring opportunity.

"I took a lot of stress out [on 9]," said Wie. "It was better than hitting a punching bag. After the eagle, I think I'll eat lunch better."

Ken Klavon is the Web Editor for the USGA. E-mail him with questions or comments at kklavon@usga.org. David Shefter of the USGA contributed.