Amateur Up Early at US Open


2004 U.S. WomenSOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- An amateur leads during the first round of the U.S. Women's Open at Orchard Golf Club.
It's not the one everyone expected.
Brittany Lincicome, an 18-year-old from Florida, fired a 5-under-par 66 on Thursday to lead in the clubhouse as the first round was suspended due to darkness.
Michelle Wie, the 14-year-old sensation who played with the men of the PGA Tour in Hawaii this year, opened with an even-par 71. She eagled the final hole to reach even-par but Wie, who lost in the final of last week's U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship, is still confident despite her fellow amateur stealing the spotlight.
'I only missed three greens today, I think that's pretty good out here, since the greens are pretty small,' said Wie. 'I didn't really quite play my A-game, I think I played B-plus, it could get better.'
Patricia Meunier-Lebouc posted a 4-under 67 and is alone in second place. Beth Daniel is 3 under par through 12 holes.
There were two weather stoppages on Thursday. The first lasted only 30 minutes but the players were only on the course for 15 minutes before a thunderstorm stopped play again. This suspension lasted three hours and the action continued until 8:05 p.m. (ET) when darkness settled in.
Players will return in position to Orchard Golf Club at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning. The second round is scheduled to begin one hour later.
Annika Sorenstam, who won the McDonald's LPGA Championship three weeks ago, leads a pack at 2 under par. She is through 15 holes, as is Jennifer Rosales. Audra Burks is 2 under through 14 holes while Jessica Lewis is at the same score and had just made the turn before the horn sounded.
Wie was given a special exemption into the U.S. Women's Open and several players voiced their opinions. Some said how unfair it was that she did not have to qualify but Lincicome did it the hard way, passing through sectional qualifying at the Country Club at Heathrow, just outside Orlando.
Lincicome struggled out of the gate on Thursday but held it together with a six-foot par save at the first. She could not escape trouble at the next hole when she three-putted for bogey.
She rebounded at the third when she knocked a pitching-wedge to 4 feet to set up birdie. Lincicome mixed a bogey and a birdie over the seventh and eighth holes to make the turn at even-par 36.
The par-3 10th hole played close to 180 yards and Lincicome roped a 5-iron 10 feet over the flag. She canned the birdie putt and added another at No. 11 with a kick-in putt that was the result of a spectacular pitching-wedge shot.
Lincicome missed the green with her 5-wood second shot at the par-5 13th. She hit a flop shot over a bunker to five feet and drained the birdie putt to go to minus-3.
The best shot of the first round came from Lincicome at the par-4 15th. Her drive landed near the trees on the left side so she elected to bump a 7-iron up the fairway, hoping to land short of the hole. Lincicome's shot ran on to the putting surface and into the hole for an eagle two.
'After I made it and it went in, I looked at my dad and started bawling,' said Lincicome, whose father Tom is carrying the bag this week. 'I could not stop. I walked all the way to the green, my mom started crying, and then I started crying even more.'
Lincicome parred her final three holes to grab the clubhouse lead.
'Coming in I just wanted to make the cut and now I'm going to try to be top three, maybe, try to win it, I don't know, might as well,' said Lincicome. 'I'm excited, it hasn't set in, maybe it will after I go home. I'm still in shock.'
Lincicome is a surprise leader, not just because she is an amateur. She missed the cut last week at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.
'I don't think I was focused, getting ready to come here and everything that was going on,' said Lincicome, who will turn professional after the U.S. Women's Amateur. 'I just wanted to come here and do a practice round and see what was going on.'
Meunier-Lebouc, who won last year's Nabisco Championship, was even on her first nine, the back side at Orchards Golf Club. She parred her first five holes on the second nine but caught fire coming into the clubhouse.
At the sixth, Meunier-Lebouc hit an 8-iron to tap-in range to go 1 under. She ran home a 20-footer for birdie at the seventh, then collected her third straight with a 25-footer at No. 8.
Meunier-Lebouc drained a 6-foot birdie putt at her last to close with four birdies in a row.
'I played very well today,' said Meunier-Lebouc, who returned to the tour in April after the birth of her first child. 'I had a lot of opportunities, and before I started that big roll, I had two long putts that just stayed short on line, short of the hole. And I felt it's okay, it's coming.'
Kim Saiki, who won last week's event in Rochester, carded a 1-under 70 on Thursday. She was joined there by Katherine Hull, Michelle Ellis, Candie Kung and Michele Redman. Se Ri Pak and former champion Liselotte Neumann headline a group at minus-1 still on the course.
Grace Park, who won this year's first major at the Nabisco Championship, and two-time U.S. Women's Open winner Juli Inkster joined Wie at even-par 71.
Defending champion Hilary Lunke, who defeated Kelly Robbins and Angela Stanford in an epic playoff, kicked off her first title defense with a respectable 1-over-par 72.
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