SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- Danielle Ammaccapane prepared for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship alongside her sister and fellow competitor, Dina Ammaccapane, practicing at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club together as they tried to decipher the riddle that is the classic and demanding Donald Ross layout.
On Thursday, Danielle seemed to find more answers than any of her fellow competitors, posting a 1-over 72 that put her atop the leader board after Round 1. She is one stroke clear of a trio that includes 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champion Liselotte Neumann, Nanci Bowen and Barbara Moxness.
Ammaccapane, 53, like the rest of the field, was not immune to the challenges that Pine Needles provides and never had a stretch of more than three straight holes without bogey on her card. She was able to overcome that with six birdies, the most of any competitor, including one on the par-4 17th, which played as the toughest hole during the first round.
“I hit it okay today. Didn't hit it in any trouble,” said Ammaccapane, who finished fourth in the inaugural playing of the championship in 2018 at Chicago Golf Club. “The greens are just so difficult.
“I mean, you can't even let up on a one-footer. I think I missed a one-footer out there. But then you make some birdies. I hit a few putts where I was like, it's not going in, and it went in.”
Playing with Moxness in one of the earlier groups on Thursday morning, it looked for a time like Neumann, who tied for sixth last year, would have a chance to post a red number. She made the turn in even par, but back-to-back bogeys on hole Nos. 1 and 2 (she started her round on No. 10) derailed those plans.
She matched birdies on hole Nos. 4 and 8 with bogeys on Nos. 5 and 7 to settle for a 2-over 73. Neumann, who turns 53 on Monday, took just 28 putts in Round 1, tied for second fewest in the field.
Reigning champion Laura Davies and 2018 runner-up Juli Inkster both struggled at times in the first round, but are still in the mix heading into Round 2. Davies, who won by 10 strokes at Chicago Golf Club, is just three strokes behind Ammaccapane after a 4-over 75. The 1987 U.S. Women’s Open champion hit just 10 greens in regulation and was tripped up by a double bogey on the par-4 17th hole but made birdies on Nos. 8 and 11 to offset her mistakes.
Inkster, a two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion, shot 7-over 78, in large part due to balky putting. Even par through eight holes, she missed a par try from 2 ½ feet on No. 18, her ninth hole of the round, and proceeded to bogey the next two holes before making a double-bogey 5 on the par-3 third.
Eighty-year-old JoAnne Carner (photo), who shot her age in the opening round in 2018, had a chance to do the same on Thursday. The eight-time USGA champion was 6-over through 15 holes before a double bogey and triple bogey on Nos. 16 and 17 put her in the clubhouse in 11-over 82.
Friday, May 17: Round 2 Tee Times
- The best scoring opportunity on Thursday came on the par-5 15th hole, and the players at the top of the leaderboard took full advantage. Measuring 469 yards, No. 15 was the easiest hole at Pine Needles during Round 1, with a scoring average of 5.25. There were 12 birdies recorded on the hole on Thursday, with the top seven players on the leader board making four birdies and three pars.
- Sixteen players hit all 14 fairways on Thursday, but only a few capitalized on their favorable positions off the tee. Just four – Christa Johnson (tied for 5th), Sue Ginter (tied for 8th), Jane Crafter and Carolyn Hill (tied for 18th) – find themselves in the top 20 after Round 1. By comparison, five of the top 10 players in greens in regulation are in the top 20 heading into Friday.
- Nine amateurs are in the top 50 after Round 1, including Marianne Towersey and Jill McGill, who are tied for 18th at 5-over 76. In 2018, six amateurs made the cut, led by Martha Leach, who tied for 10th to earn low-amateur honors. The top 50 players and ties after 36 holes will advance to the weekend.
- Danielle Ammaccapane (+1, 72): “I feel good about being in this situation, but there is a lot of golf left, and the golf course is really hard. I don't know what the weekend is going to bring. I feel like I'm a pretty good putter so the three-putting does irritate me.”
- Donna Andrews (+7, 78): “Of course, the greens are harder and faster. I think that was the hard thing. Being local, you know, everybody thinks you have an advantage on the greens. But when they're rolling two to three feet faster than normal, it makes it harder to read the putts.”
- Nanci Bowen (+2, 73): “Hitting into the greens, you've got to hit the perfect yardage. I was aiming at trees instead of pins today. I don't even know that I aimed at a pin really. If you're off just a little bit you're down off the sides of the green, so pretty much just went to the center of the greens.”
- JoAnne Carner (+11, 82): “It was kind of fun, and then when I finally did knock in a birdie putt, I got a nice big roar. That was refreshing.”