Kou's Sizzling 66 Leads the 1st Round of U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur
July 13, 2021
By Mike Trostel, USGA
Local qualifiers Isabella McCauley (+3), Kathryn VanArragon (+9) and Alexandra Lapple (+13).
CHEVY CHASE, Md. -- On a day when the Heat Index soared to 107 degrees, Xin (Cindy) Kou was nearly as scorching with her putter at Columbia Country Club. The 17-year-old rolled in five birdies to post a 4-under 66 in Round 1 to set the pace at the 72nd U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship.
Kou played in the third group off No. 1 on Monday, taking advantage of the cooler morning temperatures by birdieing her opening two holes. She turned in 33 and immediately followed with a birdie on No. 10. After her lone bogey of the day on the par-3 13th, Kou finished with birdies on two of her final three holes, closing with a 5-footer on the 18th.
“I think I just stayed really patient,” said Kou, of China, assessing her first round. “I left myself uphill putts and some dropped.”
On the strength of 11 AJGA victories, Kou is the third-highest ranked player in the field at No. 106 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). That success has bred a noticeable confidence that she brought to the Girls’ Junior this week.
“It makes me feel really comfortable stepping into this field knowing that I’m one of the better players,” said Kou, who speaks both Mandarin and English. “I think confidence is a really big thing and not being nervous when there are big crowds and people watching, I think that’s important.”
In addition to Kou, only three other players posted rounds in red figures on Monday: Kou’s fellow competitor Kiera Bartholomew (69), the reigning U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champion Savannah Barber (69) and the No. 1 golfer in the Women’s WAGR, Rose Zhang (69).
Last August, Zhang won the 120th U.S. Women’s Amateur at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., defeating Gabriela Ruffels in 38 holes. Back in Maryland less than a year later, she is in the mix again, this time at Columbia.
“After my win at the Women's Am, there has definitely been a lot more attention,” said Zhang, 18, of Irvine, Calif. “For me, it's just being able to do what I need to do on the course and, at the same time, be mature and handle myself in different social situations.”
She birdied three of her first six holes, then played steady golf coming in, making just two bogeys on Nos. 9 and 16 to preserve a solid start in her bid for a second USGA title. Zhang knows that getting to match play is the ultimate goal of the first two days and she is positioned to do exactly that.
“The course is definitely very tricky, especially on the greens,” said Zhang. “You really have to know where to miss it. Later on in the week, it's going to be a very good test to see who has better course management.”
Other notable players in good position to advance to match play include the 2018 U.S. Girls’ Junior runner-up Alexa Pano (70), Maryland native Bailey Davis (70), and Zoe Antoinette Campos (71), who is playing in her fourth Girls’ Junior.
Kynadie Adams, 17, of Gallatin, Tenn., is playing in her second U.S. Girls’ Junior and has a caddie with plenty of USGA championship experience. Steven Fox, the 2012 U.S. Amateur champion, whom Adams knows from her home club in Nashville, is on the bag this week. She opened with a 5-over 75.
There were no bogey-free rounds on Monday. Two players made just one bogey on the day: Kou (66) and Yoko Tai (70).
The 389-yard, par-4 ninth hole played as the most difficult at 4.55, while the 315-yard, par-4 seventh played as the easiest at 4.09. The only eagle of the day was made by Karen Tsuru on the 537-yard, par-5 fifth.
Twelve-year-old Anna Huang, of Canada, the youngest player in the field, opened with a 10-over 80.
Play was suspended for dangerous weather at 5:42 p.m. EDT. After a delay of 1 hour and 16 minutes, play resumed at 6:58 p.m. EDT and the final groups finished just before darkness.
“She talks to my ball. Sometimes I don’t want it to listen. Today I crushed a putt way past the hole and she was like, ‘Sit, sit, sit!’ and I was like, ‘Mom, you’re too loud I can hear you all the way over here.’ [laughs] When I make like a short putt and she screams out, I’m like, ‘Mom, you don’t have to be that excited,’ but I think it’s definitely really nice to have someone here that’s supportie.” – Xin (Cindy) Kou (66), on the encouragement from her mother, Haiyan Wu
“The Four-Ball was an amazing start to the summer. Alexa [Saldana] and I had a great week and got exemptions into the Girls’ Junior. It’s given me a lot of confidence that I can compete out here.” – Savannah Barber (69), on winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in May
“It's going to be the last chance that I can play with the juniors. So playing this one is definitely very special. I always love it. They treat us great and the USGA always tests the players.” – Rose Zhang (69)
“I stayed below the hole a lot more and had my speed under much better control.” – Bailey Davis (70), who qualified at Columbia C.C. on June 24
“I'm thankful to have gotten into the U.S. Open and happy to have gotten that experience. I've played in the Girls' [Junior] once before … you hope it's going to be a long week, so as much as you can conserve energy, try to keep the strokes to a minimum, enjoy myself, and not stress too much.” – Amari Avery (70), who missed the cut in June’s U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club.
Mike Trostel is the executive producer of content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.