SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (AP) — Sweden’s Ingrid Lindblad shot the lowest round by an amateur in the 77-year history of the U.S. Women's Open, a 6-under 65 that gave her the early lead Thursday at Pine Needles.
“She was fearless,” said playing partner Annika Sorenstam, Sweden’s most famous female golfer.
Because she’s an amateur, Lindblad wouldn’t be able to collect the record $1.8 million first-place prize if she holds on to win the event. She would have had to declare as a professional before the tournament began.
When asked if, in hindsight, that was a mistake, the 22-year-old LSU junior known to her friends as “Iggy" paused and said with a smile, “I’m going to stay in college for like another year or so."
“But when you say it, yeah... it would have been fun to win a little bit of money,” she said.
Australia’s Minjee Lee and Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist both shot 67 in the morning, and are two strokes behind after the early tee times. Several golfers remained on the course.
Lindblad finished tied 30th at 6-over 292 in her only other U.S. Women’s Open appearance in 2020.
She set the tone for a strong opening round in Southern Pines by winning the Southeastern Conference individual championship in April after making a 38-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole.
“I played really good at SECs, and then at nationals I didn’t really get anything to drop,” Lindblad said. “I hit it good but I didn’t make any putts. I feel like that was the difference then to today. I just had fun out there.”
Three amateurs had previously shot 66 — Carol Semple Thompson in 1994, Brittany Lincicome in 2004 and Gina Kim in 2019.
Lindblad said she had no idea she'd broken the amateur record until her coach told her as she was walking off the course.
When Lindblad, who is known for her long drives, is not crushing it down the fairway, she finds peace doing puzzles.
“Like at least a thousand pieces,” she said. “Puzzles, because it’s a great distraction. I just get in the zone when I do puzzles.”
She was in the zone from the start on Thursday.
While she only hit eight of 14 fairways, she just needed 26 putts to complete the round. Her only hiccup was a bogey on the par-5 10th hole. But she made up for it with seven birdies, getting a first pump from Sorenstam after draining a putt on hole No. 2.
Catherine Lacoste, the daughter of French tennis player Rene Lacoste and 1927 British Ladies Amateur champion Simone Thion de la Chaume, was the only amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open back in 1967.
Lindblad didn't balk at the chance to become the second.
“Yeah, it's possible,” she said.
“She’s really impressive,” Sorenstam said. “I think people see her as a long hitter, but I’m sure you saw her today, some of those chip shots she hit, especially here on 18, that was not an easy one. She just kind of stood there, really good touch, and she putted beautifully today, good speed. I was really impressed.”
Canadian amateur, Lauren Kim of Surrey, B.C. didn't fair as well as Lindblad as she shot a 75. The other two Canadians in the field, Maude-Aimee Leblanc and Brooke Henderson, both fired a 72.
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Steve Reed, The Associated Press