Curtis Cuppers square off early in Charlotte
__CHARLOTTE--__Auburn senior-to-be Cydney Clanton was all smiles Tuesday evening after learning that not only had she advanced to the match-play portion of the U.S. Women's Amateur but so had Jessica Korda,Stephanie Kono and Tiffany Lua, the other three members of last June's victorious U.S. Curtis Cup team who are in the field this week at Charlotte CC.
Clanton's expression changed, though, when she got a glimpse of the first-round matches and saw who she was facing Wednesday morning.
"It's just a heartbreak," said Clanton, who had never previously had a match against a former teammate in a USGA event. "[But] you can't dwell on it. You have to think of it as another competitor."
With that, Clanton hung tough after going 2 down through six holes against Lua, squaring the match on the back nine and taking the lead for good with a birdie on the 15th hole en route to a 1-up victory.
Among the longest hitters in the amateur game, Clanton relied on steady driving to take down Lua, a sophomore at UCLA. Finding the fairway most of the afternoon, the recent Women's North & South champion was 50 to 60 yards ahead of Lua and able to hit short irons to several greens.
Still, Lua had a chance to send the match into extra holes on the 18th green when Clanton missed a 15-footer for par after hitting her approach shot on the 421-yard par 4 in a right greenside bunker. Lua's six-foot par putt, however, stayed on the high side.
"I played well today," said Lua, who actually had a better aggregate score than Clanton, shooting a 72 to her opponent's 73 with concessions. "She just made a few more birdies than me. I didn't capitalize at the end."
And what was Lua's take on being paired with Clanton?
"I actually laughed," said Lua when she saw the pairing with Clanton. "At that point I was just thankful I made it into match play."
Indeed, Lua, a semifinalist at this championship a year ago, had to make five birdies over her last eight holes to survive stroke-play qualifying.
"At the beginning of the summer I was kind of struggling a little bit with my game," Lua said. "I've worked really hard on it. And coming here I was hitting the ball a lot better. I was feeling good but came up a little short."
You can blame a computer for the (bad) luck of the draw, as a program is used to randomly breaks ties for golfers from stroke-play qualifying to fill in match-play bracket. Not only did it spit out the Clanton/Lua match up but it also, amazingly, wound up pitting Korda and Kono, the other two Curtis Cuppers in a first-round tilt as well. (Upon hearing it, Clanton quipped "Well they need to change the computer.")
Unlike the Clanton/Lua match, the face-off between Korda, a high school senior, and Kono, a junior at UCLA, wasn't quite as competitive. Korda made five birdies and one bogey, never trailing in the match as she knocked off her elder, 3 and 2.
"I really had to bring out my best game," said Korda, aware that Kono had reached the semifinals in two USGA events (Girls' Junior and WAPL) and the quarterfinals in another (Women's Amateur). "We both knew what we do under pressure because we have seen [each other play]."
Korda, though, could rely on prior success in the tournament as a confidence booster as well, having reached the quarterfinals a year ago. She's also well rested, having taken a few weeks off from competition after playing in the Curtis Cup in June and the U.S. Women's Open last month (skipping the Girls' Junior in the process).
Meanwhile, Korda offered a hint at her future plans by confirming she will enter LPGA Q school this fall as an amateur and see if she can earn a tour card.
The first round wasn't kind if your last name was Lendl.Daniela, 17, was knocked out by Purdue's__Numa Gulyanamitta__, 3 and 2, while__Isabelle__, 19, was bumped by co-medalist__Erynne Lee__ in 19 holes.
The two other women who shared the stroke-play medal with Lee, Rachel Rohanna and__ Jaclyn Sweeney__, also advanced to the second round. Rohanna defeated__Isabel Han__, 1 up; Sweeney put away__Jaclyn Jansen__, 6 and 5.