By Rick Lipsey COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Co-leaders Cristie Kerr and amateur Amy Anderson were unable to finish their rounds before thunderstorms suspended play at the U.S. Women's Open on Thursday. Anderson — who's just 18 and from Oxbow, N.D. — recently finished her sophomore year at North Dakota State. She has won five collegiate events in each of her first two seasons, and in May she finished 12th at the NCAA Championship, the highest-ever finish for a player from the Summit League. Anderson also has a perfect 4.0 GPA, while majoring in accounting with a minor in fraud investigation.
Living in North Dakota, she can’t play outdoors from early November until her college team begins its spring tournament season in February. Anderson doesn’t touch a club in November and December, and starting in January she hits balls into a net at an indoor facility.
“It works for me,” she said.
Her older brother, Nathan, is caddying for her, and there are about two dozen other friends and family from North Dakota following her on the course.
“This is way more than I could have imagined,” said Anderson with a big laugh. “On the seventh hole, I saw my name on the leaderboard and told my brother to take a picture because it might not last for long.”
The leader in the clubhouse, with a two-over 73, is 30-year-old American Kristy McPherson. Originally from South Carolina and now living in Tampa, McPherson has played on the LPGA since 2007 with little fanfare. She's yet to win but finished second three times. A few interesting tidbits about McPherson: she didn't take up golf until age 15; she's had rheumatoid arthritis since she was 11; and her favorite author is Max Lucado, the Christian preacher.
One shot behind McPherson is two-time U.S. Open winner Juli Inkster. At 51, Inkster would be the oldest winner of this tournament by five years if she could somehow hoist the trophy on Sunday afternoon. Inkster made three bogies, one double-bogey and two birdies. She averaged 282.5 yards off the tee, which ranks 14th so far, not bad for the LPGA veteran. (16-year-old Alexis Thompson leads the category at 312.0 yards.) After her round, Inkster was fairly satisfied with her performance on the longest course in U.S. Women's Open history at 7,047 yards. To choose clubs in the 6,700-foot altitude of the Broadmoor, Inkster wrote out a graph indicating what clubs to hit in different situations so far above sea level.
"On downwind shots, I'll hit one to one and a half clubs extra," she said. "But into the wind it could be as little as just a half club extra."
As for what the winning score might be, Inkster said, "It's a grinding golf course. Depending on Mother Nature, I'd take even par at the finish and run."
Inkster said that rain from Tuesday had softened the course, making it easier than it had played in her practice rounds. "But it still can bite you," she said. For example, Inkster's drive into the right rough at the relatively short 413-yard, par-4 14th hole. She played out into the fairway 25 yards short of the green, pitched onto the green past the flag and three-putted. "Double bogeys just happen out here," she said.
Two major disappointments in the early going have been Michelle Wie and Thompson. Wie is seven over through 17 holes, having made just one birdie, and she's looked very shaky on the greens, taking 33 putts. Meanwhile, Thompson is five-over and has hit just five fairways.
(Photo: Mark Leffingwell/Reuters)