U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Stephanie Kono said she felt like walking off the course at times yesterday.
Rough round for local teens
NEWPORT, R.I. » Ayaka Kaneko practiced chipping next to Annika Sorenstam and when Stephanie Kono saw Laura Davies, it brought back a happy childhood memory.
But when the highlight of your golf round is crossing paths with another player, well, you probably didn't score very well.
Hawaii teenage amateurs Kaneko, Kono and Kimberly Kim were nowhere near the leaderboard after yesterday's first round of the U.S. Women's Open -- and their chances of making the cut to advance to tomorrow's final rounds aren't very good.
But all three said they're having a blast playing in the most prestigious tournament in women's golf, and they looked forward to teeing it up again today in the second round.
Kim, at 14 the youngest player in the field of 156, shot 6-over 77 in a round that included two birdies -- but also two double bogeys.
Kaneko shot 8-over 80, with a string of four consecutive pars to end the round. She wasn't happy about that, though.
"I'm supposed to make birdies," the 16-year-old Sacred Hearts student said.
Kaneko failed to break par on any hole, and Kono -- who had a 9-foot birdie putt stop an inch from the hole at par-4 second -- suffered the same fate while struggling to an 11-over 82.
"The course is very tough. If you don't hit it straight, you're in trouble. And I didn't hit it straight," said Kono, who found nine of 14 fairways, but only seven of 18 greens.
Kono, a 16-year-old Punahou student with lots of junior golf experience, conceded she was nervous on her first hole (the 10th), where she double bogeyed after taking two shots to get out of a treacherous bunker.
Katsumi Kaneko, however, said his daughter "wasn't nervous enough."
Kim certainly seemed relaxed. She spent a lot of time giggling and joking with caddie/coach Matt Hall.
Kim said it has finally hit her that she's at the U.S. Women's Open.
"Because everything's free," she said, such as her favorite food from the clubhouse, breakfast burritos and Dove bars.
Hall, head pro at Turtle Bay, said Kim's relaxed attitude isn't hurting her game.
"I think she did fantastic," Hall said. "She missed just two fairways the whole day. And she had a blast, laughing and joking the whole way."
Not bad for a kid who didn't have her own clubs, or even a change of clothes, earlier in the week. Kim's luggage didn't get here from Pueblo, Colo., (where she was runner-up in the U.S Women's Amateur Public Links), until late Wednesday.
Callaway built her some clubs in the tour van, and Kim borrowed shoes from professional Christina Kim (not to be confused with Kimberly's sister, Christine), Hall said.
Yesterday Kim used a mixed bag of old and new clubs. They helped her to birdies on the 298-yard par-4 second and the 363-yard par-4 No. 11.
Kim drove the ball 265 yards at the second hole, and chipped 5 feet past the cup to set up her first birdie, putting her briefly among the leaders.
But a drive into a lateral water hazard on the next hole led to the first of two double bogeys for her on the front nine.
Kim said the postponement of the first round Thursday due to fog helped her.
"I got to practice more with my new clubs," she said.
Kaneko had nothing worse than bogey on her card, but had nine of those.
"I couldn't do what I wanted to do," she said. "My second shot was always going to the left. My swing was a little bit wrong. I know what I have to do."
Kono said she briefly felt like walking off the course during a string of four bogeys in a row on the back nine, after she thought she'd righted her ship with four straight pars.
"But I remembered where I was," she said. "What few good shots I made, I thought to myself, 'I just made a good shot at the U.S. Open.' "
But most of her day was like the disaster on No. 18, when Kono's second shot wedged into the lip of a bunker, leading to another double bogey.
"I wasn't really sure how to hit it," Kono said.
She didn't smile much during the round, but she did as she walked off the last green and was asked to sign hats and programs.
"When the little kids come up to me and ask for autographs. I really like that," Kono said.
It wasn't very long ago when Kono was that little kid. She was reminded of that yesterday, in more ways than one.
"I was walking up to the tee box on No. 9 when I saw Laura Davies. I remembered her signing something for me when I was 6 years old. Now we're playing in the same tournament."