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Notebook: Course Crew Busy While Players Wait

By Ken Klavon and Alex Miceli

South Hadley, Mass. - What to do during a rain delay?

Well, not a whole lot. Patience is paramount because there's plenty of waiting. Two weather-related stoppages totaling 3 hours, 27 minutes -- the first at 1:58 p.m. for 33 minutes and the next at 2:48 p.m. when a wicked storm moved through that carried torrential rain - forced a suspension of play at the 2004 Women's Open at the Orchards Golf Club.

 
Players crowd the driving range during a second weather delay Thursday. (John Mummert/USGA)

While course superintendent Matt Manzi and his crew were monitoring the course, players attempted to stay busy in a myriad of ways. They ate, talked, signed autographs, played with children, stood under umbrellas and then dashed toward the driving range when the USGA announced it would be OK to warm up beginning at 5 p.m. EDT. There were so many players trying to find a spot that a human logjam occurred. The line curled well outside the range, reminiscent of tractor-trailers convoying a highway deep into the night.

When USGA Regional Affairs Director Allison Jarrett gave the green light to hit, mild cheers could be heard. Meanwhile, with four-tenths of an inch of rain saturating the golf course, Manzi's crew was squeegeeing the course. Standing water in six fairways - Nos. 2, 3, 6, 11 and 16 - made it necessary to move the water. It took workers 40 minutes to get the course in playing shape.

"The course has been taking it pretty well," said Manzi, who estimated the ground could probably take up to an inch of rain before becoming unplayable. "Of course, we want it to be firm, but it has softened up."

Fortunately, there were no concerns with greens, tees or bunkers, he said.

The course, located on the Mount Holyoke College campus, had new a drainage system installed during the winter of 2002-03.

Being Boring

Describing her play as boring, 28-year-old Australian Michelle Ellis had her best starting round of her previous four U.S. Women's Open, shooting a 1-under-par 70. Ellis, who has yet to win a tournament on the LPGA Tour, likens her overall game to Massachusetts native and 1991 Open winner Meg Mallon.

 "She's always been an exciting player to watch," said Ellis. "Our games are pretty similar. I don't miss a lot of fairways and I don't hit it extremely far, but it really is just tee and greens. I'm a pretty boring player to watch really."

Ellis first saw Mallon on TV in winning the 1991 Daikyo World Championship of Women's Golf in Australia, now called the Samsung World Championship. She remembers that it was a dogfight between Danielle Ammaccapane and Mallon, who eventually won.

 From that time on, Ellis became a fan and followed Mallon's career from afar. She went so far as to buying magazines with Mallon in them and tacking pictures to her wall. 

During her rookie year Ellis finally got to meet and play with Mallon at the First Star LPGA Classic in Dayton, Ohio. 

 "I think I was a little bit nervous the first time I met Meg," said Ellis. "That was a bit of a memorable round. Combination of everything, obviously nerve-racking standing on the first tee with someone you've looked up to for so many years, but you soon get over that after you've been out there and your rookie year is pretty tough anyways to start with."

Young Gun 

Eighteen-year-old amateur Brittany Lincicome did something that no other amateur golfer has done since the second round of the 1967 Women's Open, lead the championship.  In 1967 it was Catherine Lacoste who took a five-shot lead over Susie Maxwell and Margie Masters in the second round of the U.S. Women's Open at The Homestead (Cascades Course) in Hot Springs, Va.  Lacoste went on to win by two strokes and remains the only amateur to win a Women's Open, although Jenny Chuasiriporn nearly accomplished the feat in 1998, losing a playoff to Se Ri Pak.

 Lincicome created many other first's in her tour around the Orchards course in Thursday's first round of the Women's Open:

  • She played in her first Women's Open.
  • She shot the best first round by an amateur since Carol Semple Thompson in 1994 at Indianwood Golf & Country Club
  • Her back-nine 30 tied the lowest nine-hole score in an Open. It was last done in 2002 in the final round by Raquel Carriedo at Prairie Dunes.     

 Alex Miceli is a free-lance writer for the Golf Press Association.