Women's Course Record Highlights Qualifying
Riede, Schroeder, Kupcho, Peng advance to U.S. Women's Publinks
by Gary Baines
There were only 20 golfers competing Thursday in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links qualifying in Longmont, but that didn't stop all this from happening:
-- One player, in her first tournament round of 2013, shot what is believed to be the women's course record at Ute Creek Golf Course, a 7-under-par 65.
-- Another competitor, in her first 18-hole round in a month, finished second and also easily qualified for the USGA championship, her first since she was 13 years old.
-- A third qualifier, a 16-year-old, took a high school final exam on Thursday morning before coming to the course, and has two more on tap for Friday.
-- The final golfer to advance traveled all the way from China to Colorado for the lone purpose of trying to qualify for two USGA championships, the U.S. WAPL and the U.S. Women's Open. For her, it's one down and one to go despite finishing with a quadruple bogey on Thursday.
Kayla Riede (pictured above) of Dixon, Calif., earned U.S. WAPL qualifying medalist honors in Colorado for the second consecutive year, this time with an eye-opening round of 65. The University of Tulsa golfer made eight birdies on the day, and only one was outside of 6 feet.
What's more impressive is that Riede hadn't played competitively since undergoing hip surgery in December.
"It's really nice to say this was my first tournament round back after that," the 22-year-old said. "I knew I would do well but I'm real happy with it being that low."
Joining Riede in advancing to the national championship for public-course players were Bryce Schroeder of Pueblo (73), 16-year-old Jennifer Kupcho of Westminster (76) and Chieh Peng of Chinese Taipei (76).
The U.S. WAPL will be played June 17-22 in Norman, Okla., in the same state as Riede's college stomping grounds.
On Thursday, when no one else matched or broke par at Ute Creek, Riede hit every green in regulation except the one on the course's shortest hole, the 126-yard 14th, where she lipped out a par putt and made her only bogey.
It was the lowest round Riede has ever shot -- by two strokes -- including non-tournament play.
Riede, a fifth-year senior at Tulsa beginning in the fall, will be going to her third U.S. Women's Publinks.
"This was my first tournament back (after the surgery), so I was really ready to play," she said. "I was just really happy and excited to play. That all worked together and I came out with that score."
Schroeder, the 4A girls state high school champion last year, finished second as a Wichita State freshman in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship a month ago. But she hadn't played an 18-hole round since -- until Thursday.
"It was good to get the rust off the clubs again," said Schroeder, who made two birdies and three bogeys on Thursday. "Given that I haven't played much, I'm happy with what I shot. I've been striking the ball great. It's been my putting that's been a bit off. But I'm finding something that works, so I'm pretty pleased with the putting today (she said she had 27 or 28 putts for the day). It's one of my better putting rounds."
Schroeder has played in one prior USGA championship, but it was as a 13-year-old in the 2008 U.S. Girls' Junior. Schroeder failed to make match play that year, but her lasting memory was getting to know Lexi Thompson, who would go on to claim that national title at age 13 and who won an LPGA Tour event at age 16.
"I played absolutely terrible (88-77), but I made friends with Lexi Thompson," Schroeder said. "I was paired with her. I played bad, but it was nice to meet her and see her game."
Kupcho (pictured at left), a sophomore at Jefferson Academy, qualified for her first USGA championship two days after finishing second in the 4A girls state high school tournament. To say that this has been a hectic week for Kupcho would be an understatement as she's been taking final exams while competing in some of her most important tournaments of the year.
On Thursday, she took a biology final at 8:30 a.m., and she finished with just enough time to spare to travel up to Longmont for her 11:10 a.m. tee time. And after competing Thursday and returning home, she had to prepare for two more finals on Friday.
"All my grades are on the line (between) getting A's or B's, which is kind of tough," she said. Then with her tournaments this week, "I miss all the review, then turn around and take a final. But you've got to study hard and that's what I do.
"I'm pretty good at balancing all of it."
On Thursday, after three-putting No. 16 for a bogey, Kupcho made a 2-foot birdie on No. 17 that proved crucial in avoiding a playoff.
"It's pretty exciting," the 16-year-old said of making her USGA championship debut.
Peng, meanwhile, is no stranger to the U.S. Women's Publinks. She qualified for the event last year, made match play and advanced to the round of 32. But in earning a return trip on Thursday, she had to sweat out wondering whether a final-hole quadruple bogey would cost her a national berth.
Peng was even par on the day before that major hiccup. Like Riede and Schroeder, the 19-year-old will stay in Colorado for the coming week before competing in the U.S. Women's Open qualifying at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs on Wednesday (May 29).
This year's U.S. Women's Publinks will be the second-to-the-last ever played. The USGA announced in February that the men's and women's Publinks will be discontinued after 2014.
"That's pretty sad," Riede said. "For people who aren't part of a country club ... I was raised on public courses, so I think this is a great event to have rather than just the (U.S.) Women's Amateur. It's pretty sad that it's going to go."
U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Qualifying
At Par-72 Ute Creek GC in Longmont
QUALIFIED FOR U.S. WOMEN'S PUBLINKS
Kayla Riede, Dixon, Calif. 32-33--65
Bryce Schroeder, Pueblo, Colo. 37-36--73
Jennifer Kupcho, Westminster, Colo. 36-40--76
Chieh Peng, Chinese Taipei 36-40--76
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Hannah Wood, Centennial, Colo. 41-36--77
Emily Wood, Salida, Colo. 38-39--77
FAILED TO QUALIFY
Michaela Breit, Greeley, Colo. 37-40--77
Taylor Dorans, Erie, Colo. 42-35--77
Devin Dougherty, Woodland, Calif. 40-37--77
Mikayla Tatman, Longmont, Colo. 38-39--77
Molly Dorans, Erie, Colo. 42-36--78
Samantha Bartron, Boulder, Colo. 38-40--78
Nicole Hulbert, Arvada, Colo. 37-41--78
Paige Crawford, Colorado Springs, Colo. 40-41--81
Morgan Sahm, Centennial, Colo. 41-41--82
Katherine Scott, Cherry Hills Village, Colo. 41-41--82
Allie Johnston, Castle Rock, Colo. 41-42--83
Callie Hodgkinson, Longmont, Colo. 41-42--83
Domi Dinallo, Farmington, N.M. 42-43--85
Tonya Hardman, Highlands Ranch, Colo. 43-47--90
Jennifer Hocking, Colorado Springs, Colo. WD