World No. 1 Lydia Ko has shot a round of six-under-par 66 to lead round one of stroke play qualifying at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at The Country Club.
The 15-year-old from the Gulf Harbour Country Club made six birdies and no bogeys on the 6,512-yard, par-72 William Flynn-designed layout.
She leads Californian Alison Lee and Korean Hyo-Joo Kim by two shots heading into the second and final round of qualifying for the match play stages of the event.
Ko was co-medalist at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur and low amateur at last month's U.S. Women's Open and is among the more well-known players in the field.
Starting play on the inward nine, Ko hit a seven iron to within a foot of the hole on the par-3 11th. On the 12th, she hit a wedge from the rough to within a foot and made both putts for birdies.
“Two tap-in birdies were nice,” Ko said. “I didn’t have to think about the line.”
After a birdie from nine feet on the 13th, her tee shot at the 17th landed in a divot some 90 yards from the green.
A wedge shot out of the divot left her with a 10-footer for birdie, which she made. Turning to the outward nine, Ko narrowly missed a six-foot eagle putt on the second hole, but settled for a birdie. At the seventh, she made her final birdie of the day on a putt of nearly 30 feet.
Ko's 66 is the second-lowest qualifying score recorded in this event. She also shot a 66 in qualifying last year at Rhode Island Country Club, where she fell in the second round of match play to 2010 USA Curtis Cup participant Stephanie Kono.
Earlier this year, at the age of 14, she became the youngest person to win a professional golf tournament when she captured the New South Wales Open on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf tour. With the win she eclipsed Ryo Ishikawa, who was 15 when he won a professional tournament in Japan.
Meanwhile Lee was pleased with her 68. A few weeks ago she suffered a heart-breaking 1-down loss in the U.S. Girls’ Junior 36-hole match-play final to Australia's Minjee Lee after she was 3 up with six holes to play.
“I’ve been playing really well,” Lee said. “I’ve been doing my best not to grind. Just rest, keep my energy up. I played really freely today.”
Ko has the chance tomorrow to defend her co-medalist title at the US Amateur as she vies to become the first New Zealand golfer to win the event.
The Country Club Cleveland, Ohio (Par 72 – US unless noted)
66 Lydia Ko (New Zealand)
68 Alison Valencia, Hyo-Joo Kim (Korea)
69 Brooke Mackenzie Henderson (Canada)
70 McKenzie Neisen, Austin Ernst, Natalie Gleadall (Canada), Alina Ching, Kelly Shon
71 Ariya Jutanugarn (Thailand), Sarah Beth Davis, Ashlee Dewhurst (Australia), Ashlan Ramsey, Jenna Hague (Canada), Breanna Elliott (Australia)
72 Emily Turbert, Lauren Diaz-Yi, Emily Childs, Dottie Ardina (Philippines), Marissa Allen Dodd, Diana Fernandez (Paraguay), Erica Popson, Samantha Swinehart, Elisabeth Bernabe, Bethany Diamond Wu, Celine Boutier (France), Chirapat Jao- Javanoil (Thailand), Sierra Brooks, Sorrento, Lisa Houston McCloskey, Minjee Lee (Australia), Erynne Lee
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