Date: April 04, 2019
Author: Justin Falconer

Drama delivered on ANWA opening day

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It’s been a dream week so far but the first disappointment came on Wednesday for Julienne Soo as the Australian struggled to produce her best golf on the challenging Champions Retreat layout.

Soo signed for a 9-over 81 in the opening round of the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur, on a day where only 14 of the 72 players in the field carded a red number.

Soo made history when she became the first Australian to tee it up in the already prestigious new tournament but unfortunately the early nerves lingered.

“I was super nervous on the first tee for sure,” said Soo.

“I usually get first tee nerves but just the event that it is, it’s so much bigger than a lot of the other tournaments that I play. There was a lot more on the line.”

A trio of early bogies were compounded when Soo’s tee shot on the par-4 15th cannoned off a rock and into a creek, resulting in a triple-bogey.

But the Victorian battled hard and managed to play the next 10 holes in even par.

The highlight came on the short par-4 7th where Soo was finally given something to smile about after her drive settled eight feet above the hole and she drained the putt for a two.

“I had about four opportunities for birdie within six feet and I missed them all,” said Soo.

“I got to the 7th hole and I was like ‘I really want to make this one to make up for the others’.”

But a hanging lie from behind the 8th turned into a bogey and another wayward ball found a water hazard on the par-5 9th, leaving Soo frustrated but characteristically upbeat with two days of golf left in Georgia.

“I didnt play great today but I can’t be mad at one of the best tournaments in the world,” said Soo.

“I still get to play Augusta so I’m pretty happy!”

After one day’s play the top of the leaderboard resembles a David & Goliath battle.

Both were slow out of the blocks but 16-year-old high schooler Zoe Campos and World No. 1 amateur Jennifer Kupcho thundered home to sign for rounds of 4-under 68.

Campos received a late call-up to join the field and she made her invitation count on Wednesday, starting with five straight pars before birdies on six, seven and nine had her firing.

"I didn't think at all I was going to get in because my ranking was kind of low for this tournament,” said Campos.

“But once I got in, I knew I needed to play well. I guess I am now!”

The Californian, who shares a home town and is close friends with LPGA star Alison Lee, may have surprised herself on day one but will surely be recalibrating her expectations tonight.

“I didn’t really expect myself to be up top. I really just focused on making the cut,” said Campos.

“It's not my absolute goal to win this tournament. I just really want to get a good experience out of it.”

For Kupcho, it was close to the perfect day after the 21-year-old was granted the honour of striking the first tee shot in ANWA history in front of Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley.

Following a perfect opening ball the American was still only 1-under standing on the 14th tee, thanks to a frustrating morning with the putter.

But the Wake Forest student showed her class on the way back to the clubhouse with birdies at 14, 15 and the par-5 18th to snatch a share of the day one lead.

I think this is the first time I've ever had no bogeys and hit 18 greens together,” said Kupcho.

“So probably the first perfect round I've played.”

Kupcho was the favourite heading into this week and she’ll take some beating if she maintains this level of play.

She struggled to convert her birdie chances early but the American avoided three-putting for the fourth straight round, a personal milestone she’s keen to uphold.

“I could have made more [putts], but you can't ask to make everything on these greens. They are really hard to read,” said Kupcho.

"I was looking at Leona Maguire, and every time she would have less than one three-putt, she won a tournament. That's what I need to improve and that's what I've been working on a lot.”

South African Kaleigh Telfer sits alone at 3-under on the standings after returning the only 69 of the day, one shot clear of a quartet of players at 2-under.

It’s back to Champions Retreat for tomorrow’s second round with the cut to be made at the end of play, the top 30 women on the standings earning a final round tee time at Augusta National on Saturday. All 72 players will get to tee it up at Augusta on Friday in a practice round.

Soo tees off the 1st tomorrow at 10:12 local time (1:12 am AEDT).