Teen's eagle from rough makes her cry, but she's ahead at Women's Open

Amateur Lincicome, 18, ends rainy opening round with a record-tying 66

Golf

July 02, 2004|By Bob Herzog | Bob Herzog,NEWSDAY

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. - A teenage amateur with a penchant for giggles and tears and whose father is her caddie, tore up the Orchards Golf Club yesterday to grab the lead after a thunderstorm-delayed first day at the U.S. Women's Open.

Oh, yes, Michelle Wie had a decent day, too.

But though the crowd was much larger for the 14-year-old from Hawaii, the score was much better for 18-year-old Brittany Lincicome from Florida's Gulf Coast.

Lincicome, with three birdies and an eagle on the back nine, tied the U.S. Women's Open record for an amateur with a 5-under-par 66, one shot better than veteran Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, a new mother who brought her 5-month-old baby to the tournament.

She matched the lowest score by an amateur (Carol Semple Thompson in 1994 at Indianwood) and also tied the back-nine record of 30 at a Women's Open.

Grace Park, who has finished first and third in the other two majors this year, and two-time Women's Open champion Juli Inkster were among those finishers at even-par 71.

Defending champion Hilary Lunke showed plenty of heart. She was 4-over after four holes, about what everyone imagined from a short hitter on a course playing every bit of its 6,473 yards.

But Lunke buckled down with birdies, and a bogey on the 18th hole left her with a respectable 72.

Thunderstorms suspended play for three hours, leaving Annika Sorenstam among 75 players who had to return this morning to finish the first round.

Sorenstam was at 2-under with three holes to play. Beth Daniel was at 3-under with six holes remaining.

Wie, the baby of the sport who is a king-sized magnet for attention and even some controversy over the exemption she was granted to play this week, needed an eagle-3 on her final hole to shoot an even-par 71.

Lincicome is one of 16 teenagers playing this event, and she saluted her fellow teens when she noted, "There are a lot of juniors coming up who are going to be amazing players, whether they go to college or turn pro [as Lincicome is doing at the end of the year]. The LPGA players better look out, because we're coming."

Lincicome began her charge after she made the turn at par- 36.

"I don't even know what happened after that," she said with one of many giggles that punctuated her session with the media. What happened was that she birdied the 10th, 11th and 13th holes then made the shot of the day on No. 15 for an electrifying eagle.

"I hit the ball in the trees," she said of her drive on the par-4, 377-yard hole. "I was like 125 [yards from the flag], and I punched out with a 7-iron, trying to run it up the front."

The ball went onto the green and into the cup for an eagle-2.

Lincicome gleefully turned to the man she calls "Caddie Dad," and tears of unbridled joy began flowing.

"After I made it - I don't know how - I looked at my dad and started bawling. I could not stop," she said. "I walked all the way to the green and my mom [behind the ropes with the spectators] started crying, and then I started crying some more. Don't look at your mom when you're crying. You're going to start crying even more."

Before thunder, lightning and torrential rain stopped play twice, Wie had a parent-daughter moment, too.

After struggling with her driver all day, she came to her final hole, the par-5, 527-yard ninth, at 2-over.

She slammed her drive 307 yards, drawing shouts from the gallery, and followed it with a 5-wood that bounced within 9 feet of the hole. Then she curled in the putt for an eagle-3 that drew more roars, cheers from her mother and made her father, B.J., dance a little on the green.

Off the course

Retirement: Dottie Pepper's blue eyes, so full of passion and determination in six Solheim Cups and 17 victories on the LPGA Tour, glistened with tears as she announced her retirement because of injuries.

"When your body says `no,' it doesn't matter how big your heart is," said Pepper, 38, mostly sidelined since 2001.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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