8 AUGUST, 2022 - USGA: A common adage is that the golf ball doesn’t know the age of the person hitting it. That certainly applies to the first round of the 122nd U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay, where Alice Ziyi Zhao, the second-youngest player in the field at 13 years/6 months, shot a 6-under-par 67 to take a one-stroke lead.
This is the first USGA championship for Zhao, who was born in Shenyang, China, and now lives in Irvine, Calif. She showed no sign of nerves, however. Starting on No. 10, Zhao carded six birdies over her first nine holes to make the turn in 30. She cooled off a bit after that with an even-par score on her inward nine but still topped a field of 156 that includes USGA champions, Curtis Cup Team members and players who have competed at the highest levels of the game.
“Coming into today I didn’t really have any expectations,” said Zhao. “The course is really beautiful, and I just tried to enjoy my round and not think about shooting low.”
One stroke behind Zhao at 5-under-par 68 is another Chinese-born Irvine resident, Angela (Yilin) Liu, along with Laney Frye of Nicholasville, Ky., and Casey Weidenfeld of Pembroke Pines, Fla. Three more players are tied for fifth place at 4-under 69: Kelsey Bennett and Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, both of Australia, and Brooke Seay, of San Diego, Calif.
Chambers Bay, a municipal course built on the site of a former gravel quarry overlooking Puget Sound, is known for its sloping fairways and challenging green complexes. Many players are seeing it for the first time, and they emphasized the importance of hitting to the proper sides of greens and staying out of the tall, wispy fescue rough.
“Everything went pretty well, including my putting,” said Liu. “I was pretty concerned about the greens because they are very sloped, but it worked out because my approach shots were really good, so I didn’t have to worry too much.”
Frye, a University of Kentucky teammate of defending champion Jensen Castle, put in some extra work leading into the championship.
“It’s amazing. I came out here Thursday so I could walk it on Friday,” she said. “I played 18 on Saturday and 18 on Sunday. I might be dragging later for it, but I love the course. I could play it a million times.”
Castle began her title defense with an even-par 73, good for a tie for 29th. Other notable players who scored par or better today include a number of players who were on the 2021 and/or 2022 USA Curtis Cup Teams: Rachel Kuehn (70), Megha Ganne (71), Latanna Stone (71), Amari Avery (72) and Rachel Heck (73). World No. 6 Tsubasa Kajitani of Japan shot a 1-under 72.
Seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port, who at 60 is the second-oldest player in the field, birdied her last two holes to shoot a 1-over 74, good for a tie for 45th place.