Karuizawa, Japan: Vying to become the first team to win three consecutive Espirito Santo Trophy competitions since the USA in 1980, 1982 and 1984, Korea made a solid start at the 2014 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship (WWATC).
Thanks to a 67 from Lee So-young and a 70 from Choi Hye-jin, the Koreans ended the opening day at Karuizawa 72 Golf East in second place, two strokes behind the pace-setting Canadians.
For Korea, 17-year-old Lee took centre stage, continuing her fine recent run of form, highlighted by an individual gold medal at last month’s Youth Olympic Games in China.
“They do have some pressure (as defending champions) but this is the first time for them to be in the world championship, so we told them to enjoy it,” said Korean captain Chang See-hoon. “It is better for them not to get pressure. The first few holes I was worried and then they got into the pace. I am very satisfied with their play.”
Bolstered by a 66 from Brooke Henderson and a 69 from Augusta James, Canada posted a record score of nine-under-par 135.
Canada’s 135 is the lowest first-round score in WWATC history, eclipsing the previous mark of 136 by the USA in Argentina in 2010.
“I was really pleased with the first day,” said Canadian captain Liz Hoffman. “You are not going to win on the first day but you can certainly put yourself behind the eight-ball. There are a lot of fabulous teams out there. It was very important for all three players to be solid and they were.”
Henderson, 16, who is second in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, posted four birdies on her first seven holes and finished without a bogey on the par-72 Oshitate Course at Karuizawa. Her 66 is tied for the second-lowest first-round score in WWATC history.
Henderson, the low amateur at the 2014 US Women’s Open, won the CN Canadian Women’s Professional Tour event in Quebec in 2012 at age 14. “My ball striking was very good today,” said Henderson, runner-up at the 2014 US Women’s Amateur.
“I gave myself a lot of chances coming in. I had four or five chances from inside 15 feet but I didn’t make them all. We knew it was important to get some solid rounds in and now we have to follow that up.”
The 21-year-old James, who made five birdies against two bogeys, is a senior at North Carolina State University in the USA and she won the 2014 Canadian Women’s Amateur.
Both Henderson and James are playing in their second WWATC. Canada discarded a one-under 71 from Brittany Marchand.
The WWATC is a biennial international amateur competition conducted by the International Golf Federation (IGF), which comprises 137 national governing bodies in 131 countries. The competition, which is being held for the 26th time, is rotated among three geographic zones: Asia-Pacific, Americas and Europe-Africa.
This year’s event is hosted by the Japan Golf Association. The teams play for the Espirito Santo Trophy. In each round, the total of the two lowest scores from each team constitutes the team score for the round. The four-day (72-hole) total is the team’s score for the championship.