Minnesota Golf Association

Smith and Lillie Shoot 70 to Share Women's Amateur Lead After Day One

July 27, 2020

 
By Nick Hunter
nick@mngolf.org
 
 
  STILLWATER, Minn. – Looking to become the first player with multiple Minnesota Golf Association Women’s Amateur Championship win since Sarah Burnham claimed her second event in 2016, University of Nebraska golfer Kate Smith fired a 2-under 70 Monday at Stillwater Country Club to share the first-round lead with the University of Minnesota’s Katherine Lillie.
 
Smith earned a one-stroke victory over both Burnham and Taylor Ledwein at the 2017 championship at Northland Country Club, and notched a runner-up finish to Kathryn VanArragon a year ago at Town and Country Club.
 
“I’ve never played Stillwater before, so I was kind of feeling my way around and I really ended up loving the course,” Smith said following her round Monday. “Just a couple bad tee balls at the start and got my putter rolling on the back—the key today was making some putts. I missed a couple birdie chances coming in, but I’m excited about the next couple days.
 
“I’m excited to play the course again. There are a couple holes that I’ll pull 3-wood instead of driver and manage my way around the course a little better.”
 
After a pair of bogeys during her first six holes to begin the first round Monday, Smith settled in with a birdie at the par-3 eighth to turn at 1-over and would birdie three of her next six to jump up the leaderboard. Smith was over the 18th green in two and failed to roll in her birdie chance from six feet to card a 2-under 70 to share the opening-round lead.
 
The defending Minnesota Women’s State Open champion Smith saw her senior season at Nebraska cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will opt for an extra year of eligibility this fall.
 
She began her summer season in early June with a tie for 18th at a star-studded Women’s Texas Open, a field consisting of former women’s No. 1 Stacy Lewis and U.S. Women’s Open champion Brittany Lang.
 
The Detroit Lakes, Minn., native missed the cut for match play at the 2020 North & South Women’s Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort two weeks ago, but bounced back by finishing tied for 24th at the Women’s All Pro Tour’s Cooper Communities NWA Classic in Arkansas on Friday, shooting 9-over 297.
 
Smith earned an invitation to the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship next week at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., after she moved to No. 127 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
 
“I’m really excited to be home. I’ve had some good rounds on the road, but I needed to take a bit to focus and not take the game as seriously as I was—it got a little intense,” Smith said. “Today was fun making some birdies and being around some familiar faces.”
 
A soon-to-be senior for the Gophers, Lillie got off to a fast start Monday, carding three birdies over her first seven holes, including a 4-footer at the first, before a pair of bogeys dropped her back to 1-under for the day. She would finish strong with a birdie at the par-3 17th, rolling in a 5-footer to take the early clubhouse lead at 2-under.
 
“On this course I knew I had to attack the front nine with the wind that was going to come on the back nine and some of the holes that are a little more difficult,” Lillie said. “An easy birdie on the first hole and was able to build off of that and felt confident in the shots I was hitting.
 
“It’s excited to go bogey-free through nine holes, but really just being able to put that away and focus on the back nine. I knew if I kept playing my game and not thinking ahead—I did end up having two bogeys, but I had to make sure I didn’t get in my head and beat myself up.”
 
Lillie is looking to build on a tie for third with Gopher teammate Grace Kellar last season, finishing seven shots back of VanArragon at 11-over 230.
 
“I always come to a tournament wanting to win. I came in today wanting to put out a good score, be competitive and put myself in a good spot for the next two days,” she said. “Today I was happy with my drives—they put me in good position. You can get in some pretty nasty spots off the tee here, and was able to put my second shots in position to have chances at birdie.”
 
Prior to her junior season last fall, Lillie was named to the preseason Big Ten Conference Golfer to Watch List. She finished the shortened season by playing in six events, tying a career-low by shooting 69 during the final round of the Minnesota Invitational and a stroke average of 75.76.
 
In 2016 Lillie won the Western Women’s Junior Championship at Blackhawk Country Club in Madison, Wis.
 
Isabella McCauley, who won the Minnesota State Junior Girls’ Championship last month carded an even par 72 during Monday’s opening round to sit alone in third place, while Courtney Wedin posted a 1-over 73 to finish the opening round in fourth.
 
In the First Flight, Raelyn Spears carded a 4-over 76 to take a one-stroke lead over Carissa Kunst to Tuesday’s final round. Ellen Solem’s 11-over 83 will give her a sizable six-stroke lead over Alyssa Klein with one round left to play.
 
The 2020 MGA Women’s Amateur Championship continues Tuesday when the second round gets underway at 7:30 a.m. at Stillwater Country Club.


 


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