On an ideal day for scoring, Lauren Zaretsky, 18, of Canada, posted a 5-under-par 68 on Monday for a one-stroke lead after the first round of stroke play in the 73rd U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship being contested at The Club at Olde Stone.
Yana Wilson, 15, of Henderson, Nev., a two-time Drive, Chip & Putt age-group champion who reached the quarterfinals last year, Hsin Tai Lin, 16, of Chinese Taipei, Justice Bosio, 18, of Australia and Farah O’Keefe, 17, of Austin, Texas, were in the group at 4-under 69 on the 6,484-yard, par-73 Arthur Hills design that opened in 2006.
Overnight storms that continued into early Monday dropped nearly an inch of rain that slightly softened the conditions, especially on the greens, and the winds were calm.
Zaretsky, an incoming freshman at Texas Tech University who won the 2021 Canadian Women’s Amateur to become fully exempt for this championship, was buoyed by an eagle-3 on the par-5 11th and consecutive birdies on 17 and 18 to close out the round. The powerfully built Thornhill, Ontario, resident laced a 5-iron from 206 yards to 8 feet on the 505-yard 11th. Despite a three-putt bogey on 14 and another bogey on 16, she rebounded nicely with a 10-foot birdie on 17 and a 2-footer on the par-5 18th.
“I know I can shoot low,” said Zaretsky. “My biggest advantage is my driver. I’m pretty confident with it. The longer-hitter part of me has an advantage on this course, especially if you put it in play and your putting gets going, it’s possible to go low.”
Wilson, who earlier this year edged Anna Davis by holing out a 75-yard wedge shot on the first playoff hole to win the Annika Invitational in Orlando, Fla., missed an 8-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th that would have put her in a tie with Zaretsky. That came after she converted birdie attempts from 30 and 40 feet, respectively, on Nos. 15 and 17.
“I was just trying to stay as consistent as possible,” said Wilson, who was ousted by eventual champion and world No. 1 Rose Zhang in the quarterfinals last year. “That was my main focus today.”
O’Keefe, competing in her first USGA championship and second major competition outside of her native Texas, got off to an inauspicious start with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 1 and 2 before settling down to play 6-under-par golf over the final 16 holes, including a 45-foot birdie on the par-3 16th.
She credited caddie Jeff Young, an Olde Stone member, for calming her down.
“Both of those bogeys shouldn’t have been on the card,” said O’Keefe, a rising high school senior who plans to sign with the University of Texas in November. “They were just nervous holes. I worked my way into the tournament already, so just go out with the same energy [for Round 2] tomorrow.”
Bosio, fresh off of a quarterfinal showing in last week’s North & South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in North Carolina, was the last player to register on Sunday and only got in one practice round. It didn’t seem to matter as she posted six birdies against two bogeys.
Bosio is looking to become the second Australian to win this championship after Minjee Lee in 2012. Lee also captured the U.S. Women’s Open last month at Pine Needles.
Lin had the only bogey-free round on Monday with birdies on 7, 10, 16 and 18.
Six players are two strokes back after carding 70s: Saki Baba, 17, of Japan, 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur quarterfinalist Karen Tsuru, 17, of Carlsbad, Calif., Trinity Beth, 15, of Calvert City, Ky., Anna Song, 15, of Los Angeles, Calif., Claire Henson, 17, of Jackson, Tenn., and Korean-born Ashley Kim, 17, of La Mirada, Calif. Baba tied for 49th in last month’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles and Beth, a two-time Miss Kentucky for golf, is one of three players representing the Commonwealth.
The second and final round of stroke play will be contested on Tuesday after which the field will be cut to the low 64 scorers for match play, which begins on Wednesday. Should a playoff be necessary to fill the final spots in the draw, it will take place on Wednesday at 7 a.m. CDT, starting on hole 10 and then continuing, if necessary, to Nos. 13, 14 and 18. Admission is free, and spectators are encouraged to attend.
“Same goal as today. Just par golf. It’s a difficult course. It’s a lot of strategy. Just be confident over the ball and slow down a little bit. I’m kind of a faster-pace player. Just slow down and commit to every shot and do what I did today.” – Lauren Zaretsky on her mindset for Tuesday’s final round of stroke play
“Today, I feel like I just played some chill golf, just really relaxed. I did that really well today and I feel like I can do that [on Tuesday] as well.” – Yana Wilson
“The rough was pretty bad. I didn’t do a good job of [hitting fairways] on the front nine. But I finally figured it out.” – Farah O’Keefe
“That’s pretty special. It’s not something many people get to do, especially in this big of an event. I was glad to hit the fairway and get off to a good start.” – Kynadie Adams (1-over 74), a member of The Club at Olde Stone who had the honor of hitting the opening tee shot of the championship
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.