Reynolds takes long road to leaderboard


2009 U.S. WomenBETHLEHEM, Pa. ' Jean Reynolds has taken a roundabout route to contending at the U.S. Womens Open.
The 24-year-old from Newman, Ga., shot a 2-under 69 Thursday to tie for second with top-ranked Lorena Ochoa and 2007 champion Cristie Kerr, a stroke behind first-round leader Na Yeon Choi.
Thats pretty heady company for a Southern girl who had a solid junior career, was recruited by the University of Georgia, then redshirted her freshman year before stepping away from the game for a time.
On the last hole of her first round, the two-time Futures Tour winner and its leading money winner had a chance for the Open lead, but she missed a birdie putt.
That didnt dampen the rush.
I was pretty nervous, Reynolds said after a round that included four birdies and two bogeys. It was a good feeling, but then again, coming in under the radar and leading at the U.S. Open after the first round is pretty awesome.
Reynolds name on the leaderboard is a surprising sight considering she chose the college experience over collegiate golf. She stepped away from golf to concentrate on school, joined a sorority and studied abroad in Austria.
I looked at it as kind of five years of that much golf intensity for me, I think, would have burned me out very easily, especially at that time because I wasnt 100 percent, she said.
Reynolds eventually missed golf and competition. She went to qualifying school for the Futures Tour, did well and has enjoyed plenty of success since.
Of her two victories on the LPGA developmental tour, one came two weeks ago in her last tournament before the Open.
Reynolds is adamant that the Futures has prepared her for contending in the national championship, and seeing 27 of her tours competitors in the field this week backs that up.
Youve got competition, theres a lot of talent out there, and so when you come into a week like this, I mean, I feel pretty prepared, she said.
JUST SPECIAL: Former Womens Open champion Laura Davies is making the most of a special invite to Saucon Valley Country Club ' with a distinct goal in mind.
Davies played the 6,740-yard layout in 1-over 72 in the opening round, and was tied for sixth place.
Davies received a special exemption into the championship that extended her Open run to 24 straight, dating to 1986. She was anxious about possibly having to qualify this year and was glad to hear from the USGA.
The 45-year-old from Coventry, England, has made no secret of her appreciation of the Womens Open.
Its probably, along with the British Open, the best tournament we play in womens golf, Davies said. So, its just lovely to be here, have a chance to play the great golf courses of America, which this is obviously one of them.
And, I need a major win to get into the Hall of Fame. So, Im trying to do a lot of stuff in one week.
Davies said she knew she would like the lengthy Lehigh Valley course, and responded with three birdies, four bogeys and 11 pars in the opening round. She played the par-5 holes in 2-under.
Davies won the 1987 Womens Open, beating Ayako Okamoto and JoAnne Carner in an 18-hole playoff for her first pro victory. She has struggled since, missing the cut in eight of the last 12 events.
Her game has been inconsistent this year, too, making the cut in five of 10 tournaments, with her best finish a tie for 33rd at Phoenix in March.
STREAKING: Two-time Womens Open champ Juli Inkster made her 30th straight start in the championship.
The winner of the 1999 and 2002 events opened with a first-round 7-over 78.
Inkster played in her first Womens Open as an amateur in 1978 and finished in a tie for 23rd.
The 31-time LPGA Tour winner has missed the cut in the Open the last two years.
WITHDRAWAL: Martina Eberl of Germany withdrew from the championship midway through the first round because of a wrist injury.
Eberl, a four-time winner on the Ladies European Tour who finished third in the Order of Merit last season, started playing the 10th hole before pulling out. The 28-year-old was 9-over through nine holes.
Seon Hwa Lee of South Korea, who was in the same group as Eberl, withdrew later Thursday because of a back injury. Lee carded a 9-over 80 before dropping out.
DIVOTS: Alexis Thompson was the low amateur with an even-par 71. The 14-year-old is the reigning U.S. Girls Junior champ. In 2007, she was the youngest Womens Open qualifier in history. This is her third Open. Defending champion Inbee Park opened with a 4-over 75, one stroke better than 49-year-old Rosie Jones. Sophie Gustafson played to the Lehigh Valley area sports fans for the second straight day. The Swede sported a white Philadelphia Phillies cap with a red P in the opening round. A day earlier, she wore a red Phillies cap.
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