American Amateur Ganne and Brit Professional Reid Lead U.S. Women's Open, Tied at 4-Under Par
June 4, 2021
By David Shefter, USGA
SAN FRANCISCO (June 3, 2021) -- What were you doing at age 17? Working a summer job as a caddie, or taking drive-thru orders? Perhaps you were preparing for your driving test or grinding over college-entrance exams.
Megha Ganne is not a typical 17-year-old, as she illustrated in the first round of the 76th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at The Olympic Club. The Holmdel (N.J.) High School junior carded a 4-under-par 67 – one off the 18-hole amateur scoring record – to match English professional Mel Reid on a breezy, overcast Thursday a few hundred yards from the Pacific Ocean. She is the first amateur since Jane Park in 2006 at Newport (R.I.) to hold a share of the lead.
Looming a shot back are Angel Yin, Megan Khang and past KPMG Women’s PGA champion Brooke Henderson. Major champions Lexi Thompson, Shanshan Feng and Yuka Saso sit two strokes back.
With some of the tees moved up for Round 1, 15 players managed to better par of 71 on the 6,312-yard layout that has hosted five U.S. Opens and three U.S. Amateurs. Ten other players are at even par, including 2018 champion Ariya Jutanugarn and Lydia Ko.
Ganne almost missed out on her historic day. She had to survive a 3-for-1 playoff in the Spring Lake (N.J.) Country Club qualifier on May 10 to earn her spot in the 156-player field.
But she is no stranger to the big stage, having qualified for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open at Country Club of Charleston (S.C.), where she missed the cut. She also advanced to the semifinals of the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur, losing in 19 holes to Stanford All-American Albane Valenzuela, and competed in four Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club.
Already verbally committed to Stanford University for the fall of 2022, Ganne, a product of The First Tee of Metropolitan New York and the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program, gained more confidence on the Lake Course layout with each practice round.
Ganne went out in 3-under 32 and added three second-nine birdies. Her lone blemishes were bogeys on Nos. 11 and 18.
“I didn't panic when I got into the rough a couple of times out there,” said Ganne. “The [bogey] on 18, I was talking to my caddie (Olympic member Mike Finn), and I was like, ‘Is this dumb?’ And I ended up going for it. I probably should have just laid back there given my lie [in the rough].
Reid likely hadn’t envisioned breaking par on Day 1. In 12 previous U.S. Women’s Open rounds, she had only broken 70 once, in 2012 at Blackwolf Run, where she tied for 50th. But the 33-year-old Englishwoman found something on Thursday.
“It's probably the best [round] I've had for a [major] tournament,” said Reid, who had missed the cut in four of her five U.S. Women’s Open starts.
Solid ball-striking (14 of 18 greens hit) led to a five-birdie, one-bogey day. Her lone blemish came on the 325-yard, par-4 18th hole. Reid got off to a great start with a pair of 10-foot birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 – the USGA is using a 1 and 9 start due to the logistics of the course – and added birdies on the par-3 15th, par-5 16th and 260-yard, par-4 seventh, which ranked as the easiest hole on the course.
“I think the conditions are going to get tougher,” Reid said. “The rough is going to grow up a bit. The greens are going to get firmer. If it gets windy, it's a tough golf course. You cannot switch off on any single hole.”
The field of 156 will be trimmed to the low 60 scorers and ties after Friday’s Round 2. The championship will feature 18 holes on Saturday and Sunday, with a two-hole aggregate playoff following Round 4, if needed.
This is the third consecutive major that Yuka Saso has started with a 69. In last December’s U.S. Women’s Open, Saso followed with rounds of 71-77-72 to tie for 13th at Champions Golf Club. She tied for 50th in the ANA Inspiration in March.
Rachel Heck, who became just the third female player in NCAA history to sweep individual conference (Pacific-12), regional and NCAA titles in the same season, has more than golf on her mind this week. The Stanford University freshman needed to complete a paper for her political science class. As one of the few colleges on the quarter system, Stanford is in the midst of finals.
A pair of college coaches whose wives are in the field are caddieing for other competitors. Charlie Ewing, the husband of last week’s LPGA Tour winner Ally Ewing and the Mississippi State women’s golf coach, is on the bag of Abbey Daniel, a rising junior for the Bulldogs. Gerrod Chadwell, the husband of major champion Stacy Lewis who just announced he is departing the University of Houston for Texas A&M, is carrying for former Houston player Leonie Harm. Daniel carded an 81, while Harm shot 73.
A Lim Kim, of the Republic of Korea, is in danger of becoming the first defending champion to miss the cut since countrywoman Sung Hyun Park in 2018 after carding a 8-over-par 79.
Other notables who struggled on Day 1 included world No. 4 Nelly Korda (78), past champions Paula Creamer (75), Na Yeon Choi (75), Eun Hee Ji (75), Na Yeon Choi (75), In Gee Chun (75), Brittany Lang (75), and Sung Hyun Park (77), reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Rose Zhang (76) and Heck (75), who moved up to No. 2 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking on Wednesday.
Cristie Kerr, the 2007 champion who along with Creamer received a special exemption from the USGA, carded a 2-over 73. This is her 26th U.S. Women’s Open start.
“I teed off so early and I was so cold, I was kind of falling asleep. The front nine, I was like, gosh, I'm so tired. Now I'm hungry. Didn't hit many fairways on the front nine, so I think that showed on the scorecard.” – Angel Yin when asked if she was comfortable with the first-round setup.
“There was a really bad lie on a par 5. I can't remember what [hole] it was. And I just looked at it, and I was like, ‘Oh, my wrist hurts just by looking at it.’” – Yin on the rough at The Olympic Club.
“Try to get as much sleep as I possibly can. Same game plan. It's honestly just a blessing to be out here and playing this golf course. It's unbelievable. I'm just looking forward to the week. I've just been trying to enjoy myself more and not really have golf be life or death.” – Lexi Thompson on her mindset.
“Honestly, I thought it played way easier today. They moved a lot of tees up, and I don't think I had more than a 7-iron into a par 4.” – Jennifer Kupcho following a 1-under 70.
“There are some holes out there that are absolutely brutal, and [the USGA] moved a few of the tee boxes up on the par 4s to allow it to be fair. You still have to hit really good golf shots. If you're playing solid and you're not making mistakes, you can turn it into an under-par round.” – Marina Alex (70) on the setup.
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David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.