Stratford (July 24). The scores were not pretty on the first day of the 54th Women’s Amateur at Oronoque Country Club.
But the name at the top of them was a familiar one.
Defending Champion Kyra Cox shot 76, four over, to lead by four on a day when Oronoque’s corridor-like fairways, frequent doglegs and bowled putting surfaces perplexed nearly everyone.
For some, who did not play the correct angles off the tee or into them, the greens were insolubly sloped and slippery. For others, who had seen these same putting surfaces at lightning speeds, the slower pace created by heavy rain the day before, was just as mystifying.
Cox was the only player to break 80. Nearly half the field was above 90. Last year, remember, Cox was five under par over 3 rounds and the only player in red numbers. Desmond Muirhead’s Oronoque design had nearly everyone mumbling. (For the first time the Amateur will play at 36 holes this year).
“It was difficult, definitely tricky,” said Cox, who has just completed her first year as a member of the Furman golf team. “It’s deceiving because it’s such a short course, but you really have to land the ball in a perfect spot get to the flags.”
Cox made five bogeys on the front, against two birdies, but was only one over on the back for 37. “It was definitely a struggle, but I held myself together after kind of a tricky front.”
Four shots back was Ellington High School’s Alex Fox, who finished 8th in the state championships last year and this year chose to play on the boys team in the states because Ellington had a chance at the title. She had the second-best score on her team.
Fox had nine bogeys and a birdie to finish at plus eight. Cox and Fox were the only players in the field without a double bogey or worse on their cards, despite the fact that the course played at 5600 yards.
Their accuracy off the tee might explain that. Cox hit no drivers all day, using three wood, hybrid and even 4-iron off the tee, even on par 5s. “These fairways are very tight. I’ve gained a lot of distance and with a lot of doglegs I could run through them. I really focused today on what I was hitting off the tee so that my approach shots I’d have a good distance in so I could assure myself of a not-too-tricky putt.”
Behind Cox, the field was bunched.
Fox was at +8. Meghan Mitchell, the recent New Canaan graduate who led her high school team to three consecutive state titles was +9. Emily Cohen of Darien, who won the Connecticut PGA Junior Championship in June was +11. And Jen Holland, the 2018 Player of the Year, who qualifies for the Senior Division, was +12. Holland said she fought a tight lower back on the front, when she made five bogeys and a triple on the par-5 8th. Like a lot of players, she was pointed to tomorrow. And it wasn’t the senior division title she was thinking about.
Pointing to the scoreboard, she said matter-of-factly, “I think I need to shoot 65, which I've done,” Cox is not planning on making it easy for the rest of the field. “It would mean a lot to win again,” she said. “This is my last big tournament before I go away, so it would definitely give me some confidence [going back to Furman].” Her aim: stay at or around even par.
There are four divisions in the Connecticut Women’s Amateur, besides Cox (overall) and Holland (Senior Division, leader in the Junior Division, is Fox by one over Mitchell and by four over Ridgewood’s Mia Scarpati and in the Super Senior Division, Donna Harris of Farmington Woods Golf Club and Gia Watkins of Brooklawn by one over Nancy Walker of Wethersfield were a shot apart.
Play will begin at 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning, with leaders Cox, Fox and Mitchell teeing off at 9:20.