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Megha Ganne, a 17-year-old high school junior, co-leads U.S. Women's Open

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SAN FRANCISCO – High school junior Megha Ganne barely survived a 3-for-1 playoff to get into the U.S. Women’s Open. Now, the 17-year-old is tied for the lead at 4 under and is the sixth amateur in this championship’s history to shoot 67 or lower.

Camera crews rushed to capture her last shots on Thursday and a crowd gathered behind her, but Ganne remained poised. Despite a bogey at the final hole, she recorded six birdies on the day, leading outright until that dropped shot on 18.

She thanks her previous U.S. Open experience for her extra confidence.

“The first time [at a U.S. Open] is nerve-racking for anybody and meeting your idols and being on the stage for the first time. But the second time around, even the practice rounds, I wasn't as nervous. I felt like I could come here and just play my game instead of soaking that all in. Definitely a little bit easier this time,” said Ganne, who first qualified for the U.S. Open in 2019 at the Country Club of Charleston, where she missed the cut shooting scores of 81-72.  

U.S. Women’s Open: Full-field scores | Full coverage

The rough intimidated a lot of players in Round 1, but Ganne knew what she was up against. “I didn't panic when I got into the rough a couple of times and it's easy to panic out there,” she said. “I think just knowing that everyone in the field has to deal with it, and whoever makes the smartest choices out of there and picks the best lines and doesn't take unnecessary risks is going to be the person who ends up better off.”

She also thanks her experience at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, where she missed the cut in April, but got a lot of experience in front of the camera. “It's really similar, you know, really prestigious and a lot of cameras and a lot of attention on you. So, it was really good preparation.”

Ganne tied for USWO lead as 17-year-old amateur

Ganne tied for USWO lead as 17-year-old amateur

Ganne’s calm demeanor must come from her parents, Hari and Sudha Ganne, who were not nervous walking The Olympic Club, but enjoying every moment watching their daughter play – and, of course, incredibly proud.

“This is a special day,” said her father, Hari Ganne. “No matter what happens tomorrow, today was an amazing performance. She’s going to be feeling so good for tomorrow.”

Both Hari and his wife are first-generation immigrants to the United States, and it was Hari who introduced his daughter to the game.

“The snack bar and the Oreos was the initial motivation [to come to the range]. And then she started swinging a little and she liked it,” Hari said.

Ganne is currently ranked third in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and 71st in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR). She is a four-time finalist in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Championship at Augusta National and lost in the semifinals at the 2019 U.S. Amateur in 19 holes to Albane Valenzuela. Ganne is verbally committed to Stanford University and will start fall of 2022. Both Stanford head coach Anne Walker and assistant Maddie Sheils watched Ganne compete today.

“They haven't seen me play since 2019, so I hope they like this first round,” Megha said.

Only one amateur, Catherine Lacoste in 1967, has ever won the U.S. Women’s Open. Ganne will continue her quest on Friday, in the second group out at 10:11 a.m. ET.