Asian Games champion Yuka Saso bogeyed the 17th hole and dropped into a share of 15th place with five others all with identical 72s at the start of the inaugural edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in Washington.
In a roller-coaster round, Saso, 17, gunned down three birdies and the same number of bogeys to trail fancied Americans Jennifer Kupcho and 16-year-old Zoe Campos who fired similar 4-under 68 at Champions Retreat Golf Club, venue for the first two rounds.
Priming herself for another two-gold romp in the coming SEA Games which the country will be hosting late this year, Saso started well with a birdie on the second hole.
Her other birdies came on Nos. 8 and 15 but bogeyed the 6th and 11th holes.
Saso is hoping to do better this time after finishing tied for second in last year’s Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship after being part of a four-person playoff for the title.
She also won the Thunderbird International Junior and secured victory in the 2018 Asian Games while helping the Philippines clinch the gold in the team event.
One shot off Kupcho and Campos was South African Kaleigh Telfer while tied for fourth to 7th places were Spanish Marta Perez, Mexicsn Maria Fassi, Italian Alessandra Fanali and Swede Maja Stark.
American Haley Moore turned in a 71 to tie five others while Saso shared 15th to 20th places with Americans Rose Zhang and Kaitlyn Papp, Thai Jaravee Boonchant, Agathe Laisne of France, and Japanese Yuka Yasuda.
The tournament, announced to great fanfare last year by organizers of the Masters, will see women compete for the first time for a trophy at Augusta National on Saturday after the field is winnowed from 72 to 30 for the final round.
It’s a landmark move for the club that didn’t admit any women members until 2012.
On Wednesday, Kupcho and Campos led the field at Champions Retreat Golf Club, venue for the first two rounds.
With Augusta National and Masters Tournament Chairman Fred Ridley in attendance, Kupcho admitted she was ‘’a little nervous’’.
It didn’t show as she hit every green in regulation in her bogey-free four-under round.
In addition to the final round on Saturday, all 72 entrants will play a practice round at Augusta National on Friday. (With a report from AFP)