Maguire takes her time, then closes fast to win Meijer

By Jeff Babineau

BELMONT, Mich. – Patience is one of the most overused words in golf, but Ireland’s Leona Maguire showed the value of having plenty of it on a wild Sunday at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give at Blythefield Country Club.

Taking her time to start the day, Maguire stepped up to play her final six holes of the tournament in 6 under par, a tremendous run that would deliver her second LPGA title at a venue where she already had enjoyed nice success. After finishing second back-to-back at the Meijer the last two years, this time Maguire had the trophy in tow as she lifted off for New Jersey and the LPGA’s second major of the season this week at Baltusrol Golf Club.

“I mean, this one is, I think, that little bit sweeter after coming so close two years in a row,” said Maguire, 28, who continues to make a bigger imprint on the LPGA, fulfilling the promise she showed in spending 135 weeks as the world’s top-ranked amateur. She entered the week ranked 20th in the Rolex World Rankings.

“I know a lot of people this week were saying ‘You’re due one, this course owes you something,’ all the rest. But I suppose that’s not golf. Golf usually doesn’t work like that. But nice that it all worked out well for me this week.”

Maguire closed with an 8-under 64, matching the low round of the tournament, to finish on 21-under 267, two shots clear of Ariya Jutanugarn, who stood in 107th place after an opening 73 on Thursday. Jutanugarn was trying to figure out what she’d be doing over her free weekend, lowered all expectations, then shot 64-66-66. Funny game, this golf.

On a day when it was imperative to make birdies to challenge, Maguire seemed to coyly sit back for the longest time, like someone just whistling for hours at the bus stop. Defending champion Jennifer Kupcho got off to a blistering start that included an ace at the 124-yard fifth, and got to 5 under on her round early,  and soon had the lead at 17 under. Korea’s Amy Yang, looking to win for the first time in the U.S., took a turn leading. Janet Lin of China, looking to win for the first time on the LPGA, took the lead on a test drive. As did the powerful, long-hitting Jutanugarn, who just a few days earlier thought she was headed down the road.

Through 12 holes, basically, Maguire sat back and watched, basically, waiting for something good to happen. She was 2 under through 12 holes. This tournament was Maguire’s destiny, after all, following runner-up finishes in each of the last two years. Blythefield owed her one, right?

Nothing would be gifted. Maguire, 28, seeking her second LPGA title, had to go out and seize it. She had been throwing jabs long enough, and soon she stepped into the fight.

She made birdie at the 181-yard 13th, where she hit hybrid onto the green and ran in a putt. Eagle from 8 feet at the par-5 14th (she hit 5-wood that chased up onto the front of the green) to let her presence be known. When she hit a pair of wedges in tight at Nos. 16 and 17, knocking in two short birdie putts, she had reached her morning goal of getting to 20 under. By 18, another par 5 where Maguire was just short in two shots, she was showing off, clipping a sharp pitch that finished a foot from the cup.

Things ended better than they had a year ago, when Maguire missed a short birdie putt on the same hole to extend her playoff with Kupcho. But she carried with her all week the good things she had done at Blythefield over the past two years. Like the 65 she shot on Sunday last year just to give herself the spot in the playoff. She was plenty confident.

“My goal today was to shoot 20-under par (for 72 holes),” Maguire said. “I thought if I got to 20 that would be a good target to set for the girls coming behind. I didn’t look at leaderboards. I didn’t know what anybody was doing, and I think, yeah, it was obviously a bonus to go one better, 21 (under).

“And obviously bogey-free on a Sunday is very nice, as well.”

Maguire was rock-solid throughout the day, hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation. Even early on, when the birdies weren’t falling, Maguire made sure to keep the faith that soon they would.

“She never missed a shot all day,” said Dermot Byrne, Maguire’s caddie of two years. “It just was about being patient, and waiting for the putts to drop, and eventually they did. I can’t remember a shot where she didn’t hit her target. She just played great, didn’t she?

“The eagle (at 14) was great for momentum. Patience was the key. That’s this course. People come out expecting to birdie every hole, and you don’t birdie every hole. She was brilliant.”

Jutanugarn rolled in about a 30-footer for birdie after blasting an 8-iron 30 yards over the flagstick at the par-5 18th, finishing alone in second. Her 66 included seven birdies, and she felt she found some momentum in her game over the last 54 holes.

“I mean, I can’t ask for better. I’m feeling much better with my game, but I still have so much things to work on,” Jutanugarn said.

Yang, whose four LPGA victories all have come in Asia, made birdie from the trees at the par-4 sixth and made an eagle at the 14th to keep close, but gave two shots back when she doubled the par-3 15th, which dropped her from 19 to 17 under. She birdied the 18th to tie Lin for third, three shots behind Maguire.

Kupcho, after playing her first nine in 5-under 31, made three bogeys on her final nine, shooting 38 coming in, to finish with a round of 69, which left her tied for sixth.

“Started out really well, and just didn’t follow it through,” Kupcho said.

In the end, it was Maguire’s day, even it she did wait a bit to make big things happen. It was in there all the time. She just needed to summon something special, and she did. Her patience, she said, was “massive.”

“I mean, it’s hugely satisfying,” Maguire said, the trophy sitting by her side. “I think it’s one thing knowing what to do; another thing executing on it. I feel like I’ve been playing some really good golf lately, and it’s nice that everything sort of just of clicked together on the back nine.”

Byrne, her Irish caddie, knew exactly what to do when Maguire finally found her stride down that homestretch.

“She’s world-class,” Byrne said, the rolled-up winning caddie’s flag from the 18th green clenched in his right hand. “I just need to get out of the way.”

As did, eventually, everyone else in the field at the Meijer. Some might say Leona Maguire was owed that much.

Very superstitious

By Jeff Babineau

Ariya Jutanugarn had one thought when she opened this week’s Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give by shooting 73. She probably was headed for the weekend off.

“I would say after my first round,” said the former World No. 1 from Thailand, “just have no expectation.”

Then she went out and shot 64 on Friday, the low round of the tournament until Leona Maguire would match it on Sunday, and followed it with a 66 on Saturday to get herself into contention, just two shots off the lead held by Amy Yang.

“I would say last two days it show me lot, that when I’m not thinking about outcome and I really want to play hole by hole, it’s help me a lot,” said Jutanugarn, 27, a 12-time winner on the LPGA. Her victories include a pair of major championships (2016 RICOH Women’s British Open and 2018 U.S. Women’s Open)

Jutanugarn is superstitious too, and had a stop to make before visiting with the media for some post-round questions Saturday evening. After playing poorly on Thursday, she went right to the range to hit balls, then shot 64. Following her Friday 64, she did the same, responding with 66 on Saturday. So, in keeping with a good trend, she left the 18th green and headed over to hit some practice balls Saturday evening.

“I’m like, Oh, I should do it again today,” she said. So I hit only five balls. That’s it.”

Jutanugarn was tied for 107th place after the first round. Since 1980, the worst first-round position by a winner on the LPGA Tour was a tie for 84th place. Jutanugarn shares the tournament record a Meijer for low round, shooting 62 in the final round of he 2018 Meijer. Lexi Thompson matched it a year later, and Nelly Korda shot 62 on the way to her record total of 263 (25-under) in 2021.

Sunday, Jutanugarn shot 6-under 66 to finish alone in second place, earning $230,318. Not bad for somebody who three days earlier was looking at having the weekend off.

Bonus Weekend for Brooke

By Jeff Babineau

Brooke Henderson is a two-time champion at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give and a big fan favorite in Grand Rapids, so it was a relief for her – and her fans – when she birdied her final hole on Friday afternoon to sneak inside the cutline.

Her reward was two more rounds on the weekend, and a chance to work on her game as she preps for this coming week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club, a tournament she won in 2016 (her first major). On Sunday she was in the first group off the 10th tee (two tees were needed because of an early finish on CBS) and played her best golf near the end of the round, making three birdies in four holes to shoot 69. She finished the event at 8-under 280.

“To make a little bit of a climb today – I kind of ‘maintained’ – that feels good,” said Henderson, who won at Blythefield in 2017 and 2019. “It was kind of scary there on Friday afternoon, and I’m so happy to play the weekend. I love playing here at the Meijer. The fans are incredible, and the atmosphere is a lot of fun. I have some good things to take forward with me.”

Henderson said she doesn’t know a whole lot about Baltusrol’s Lower Course, and will have plenty the learn over the coming days. Pretty much every big golf championship has been staged at the club, including men’s and women’s U.S. Opens as well as PGA Championships and U.S. Amateurs. (Mickey Wright won a U.S. Women’s Open in 1961, and Jack Nicklaus won two U.S. Opens there.)

“I’ve only heard amazing things about it,” Henderson said. “It’s a great opportunity for us girls, and it’s going to be a good challenge. So it was good to get a couple of extra rounds under my belt leading in, and I’m hoping for four solid rounds next week.”

All in all, Henderson believes her game is in pretty good shape as she heads to the season’s second major. Is there one area of her game she would like to dial up?

“I’m just not scoring right now. I’m hitting good shots and putting myself in position a lot of the time and just not getting the results,” Henderson said. “I just need to stay patient and stick with it a little bit … I know it will turn around here soon.”

Yang Holds One Shot Lead In Crowded Leaderboard Heading into Sunday

By Jeff Babineau

BELMONT, Mich. – As Yogi Berra might have said, it’s déjà vu all over again at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. Three days of play are in the books at Blythefield Country Club, and once again, the leaderboard is more crowded than a Manhattan elevator on a Monday morning.

Translation: We are in for another exciting Sunday at a tournament that has a penchant for delivering them. Korea’s Amy Yang, who on Saturday shot a third consecutive 5-under 67, will start Sunday at the Meijer at the top, sitting at 15-under 201, but she cannot afford to do much looking around. Somebody, somewhere across this scorable gem, is bound to be gaining on her.

Last week’s ShopRite winner, South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai, China’s Xiyu “Janet” Lin, seeking her first LPGA victory, and Japan’s Akaya Furue, who took a lead to the back nine on Saturday, all head into Sunday’s final round only one shot back. Buhai and Lin shot 6-under 66s on a Saturday that featured plenty of sun, gentle breezes, and a bevy of birdies and eagles. Furue made three late bogeys and shot 69. To stand still was to lose ground.

Hard-charging Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand (66) – who has played with “no expectations” since a 73 on Thursday – Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim (69), and Ireland’s Leona Maguire (69), a runner-up in each of the last two years at Meijer, will start Sunday two off the lead. A three-pack at 12 under, only three shots behind Yang, includes defending champion Jennifer Kupcho as well as a pair of players looking to win on the LPGA for the first time, Texan Lindsey Weaver-Wright (69) and rookie Manon De Roey of Belgium. De Roey bogeyed her first two holes and bounced back to shoot 69.

Storylines, storylines, storylines. Yang, 33, has had a nice career on the LPGA. She has 81 career top 10s, and on Sunday, she will surpass $11 million in career earnings. She also has won four times as a member of the LPGA; all four of the victories have been in Asia. How important is it to her to win in the U.S.?

“I want to,” said Yang, smiling. “I’ll keep trying my best.”

Yang’s ballstriking – she credits more balanced tempo – has been her strongest suit this week at Blythefield, where on Satuday, she started nicely, made two bogeys near the middle of the round, then found some momentum late. She hit pitching wedge to 15 feet to set up her sixth birdie of the round at the challenging par-4 17th. At 18, a 478-yard par 5, she showed off her power, crushing a drive that left her only an 8-iron in. She hit her approach to 30 feet, setting up an easy two-putt birdie to get to 15 under.

It was the 23-year-old Furue who seemed to be in control most of the afternoon. The winner of last year’s Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open started Saturday with the lead (11 under) and reached 15 under with a birdie at the par-5 eighth, her fourth of the young day. But her second nine was something of an adventure.

So steady (one lone bogey) through her first 48 holes, Furue would make two birdies over her final six holes, but also made three bogeys in the stretch to give back the lead she had worked so hard to build.

“It’s one of those golf courses that yes, you can go very low, but it doesn’t take much to rack up a few bogeys,” said Maguire, who had two on her card to offset the five birdies she made, including a run of three straight beginning at the sixth, where he chipped in from just off the front of the putting surface.

Maguire made it into a three-way playoff a year ago (won by Kupcho) by shooting 65 on Sunday. (She, Kupcho and Korda played off at 18-under 270.) She’ll be looking to do something similar to make up ground on those ahead of her on Sunday, knowing that she is swinging it well enough to score better.

“Good rhythm, good patience tomorrow, and see what happens,” Maguire said. “It’s all about finding the balance between being aggressive, knowing that you have to make birdies, versus not forcing the issue too much. It’s just a case of giving yourself chances and just taking them where you get them. And knowing there is chances all over the golf course.”

Nobody comes into Sunday any hotter, or riding more confidence, than Buhai. It took her until she was 33 (and making her 221st start) to break through to win on the LPGA, winning a major, no less (2022 AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield). Of late, she has made getting into contention a habit. Last week’s ShopRite was her fourth victory around the globe in the last 12 months. Buhai is stronger physically (she has a trainer) and mentally, and putts it as well as she ever has. Buhai has become the complete package, and tough to beat.

Buhai rebounded from her lone bogey of the round at 17, where she got out of position with a poor swing into the green and ended up with an awkward greenside bunker shot, by making eagle-3 at the closing par-5 18th. She hit a hybrid there for her second shot, her ball finishing about 20 feet from the flagstick.

How does Buhai feel in contention on Sunday as opposed to how she might have felt previously to becoming an LPGA winner? It’s pretty much night and day.

“Obviously, you know, winning gives you confidence and it’s a byproduct and just kind of once you’re in that situation, the more you put yourself in the situation, the more comfortable you become,” Buhai said. “Again, by not focusing on the outcome and just trying to, like I say, focus on that moment and doing my job well at the ball, that kind of frees you up a lot, I think.”

Sunday, she will try to be the first player to win back-to-back LPGA starts since Jin Young Ko in 2021.

Kupcho, who is off to a slow start in 2023 but finished second at the Cognizant Founders Cup two weeks ago, has yet to feel completely comfortable with her game this week, but continues to battle and has done a nice job of hanging around. On Saturday, despite making three bogeys – one at the par-5 10th hole – she did enough to shoot 69, making birdie at her final hole to at least stay within three shots.

Kupcho’s round included an eagle-3 at the par-5 eighth, a hole she eagled a year ago in her final-round push. She holed about a 30-footer. Kupcho knows as well as anyone that a low round is out there waiting for somebody on Sunday (the low this week has been Jutanugarn’s 64 on Friday). A year ago, in some of the week’s most challenging conditions, with the wind blowing, Kupcho opened the tournament by shooting 63.

“It’s going to be kind of hard for me to come back,” said Kupcho, a three-time winner in 2022. “Have to go like 9 under, probably. So no mistakes and see what happens tomorrow, I guess.”

Ah, Sunday at Blythefield, 18 holes to play, the possibilities are endless.

Kelly Tilghman Returns to the Airwaves

By Jeff Babineau

Sunday’s final-round network telecast of the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, which will be on CBS (2-4 p.m. EDT), will feature a familiar voice as anchor in the booth: former Golf Channel announcer Kelly Tilghman.

Tilghman stepped away from full-time broadcasting five years ago, walking away after the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational to devote more time to her family, specifically her daughter, Ryan, who was 6 at the time.

Tilghman was a college golfer at Duke who played briefly in the professional ranks, and was serving a television internship in West Palm Beach, Fla., when she had a timely meeting with Scott Van Pelt, the ESPN personality who at the time was employed at Golf Channel in Orlando. He told Tilghman where he worked, and it piqued her interest. There was a network devoted solely to televising golf? She contacted Golf Channel, started in the network’s library, and ended up on the air, a career that covered 22 years.

In 2007, Tilghman became the first full-time female play-by-play commentator on the PGA Tour, joining six-time major winner Nick Faldo in the booth. Sunday at Blythefield, Tilghman will anchor final-round national coverage alongside Karen Stupples, the former Women’s British Open champion who has been part of this week’s daily telecasts  for Golf Channel. Tilghman also worked with CBS at the Masters in April.

Earlier-round coverage of the fourth round on Sunday begins on Peacock at noon, and on NBC/Golf Channel (1-2 p.m.) before CBS comes on at 2.

Saturday, Golf Channel got creative in its third-round coverage with on-course reporter Tom Abbott, who first went live from J. Brewer’s/Frederik’s Pavilion, a highly popular dining experience at the Meijer next to the fourth hole, and then spent time broadcasting from a kayak from the adjacent Rogue River, which borders some of the holes in the early portion of Blythefield Country Club’s back nine.

For India’s Ashok, a nod to her dad on Father’s Day Weekend

By Jeff Babineau

LPGA player Aditi Ashok of India won’t have to find a phone to reach her father long-distance this Father’s Day. He’ll be walking in her gallery at Blythefield Country Club as she competes at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give.

Usually, Ashok Gudlamani, Aditi’s father, is by his daughter’s side, working as her caddie. But this being her sixth consecutive event, and with a major (KPMG Women’s PGA) looming next week, she gave her dad the week off. She has Jay Davey on the bag.

With Father’s Day arriving on Sunday, Aditi said she and her father have worked hard at their on-course relationship, making sure to keep it player/caddie, and not father/daughter. Aditi is trying to become the first player from India to win on the LPGA. She already has won on the Ladies European Tour, and a few weeks ago lost in a playoff at the LPGA’s JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro in Los Angeles.

She, her father and her mother, Mash, all took up the game at the same time, when Aditi, now 28, was 5. At the time, there were three golf courses in Bangalore, where they are from. Aditi used to eat at a restaurant that overlooked a driving range, and one day, her curiosity got the best of her. Her dad asked her, “Do you want to give it a try?”

She continues to improve on the LPGA, getting closer to breaking into the top 50 in the world, and has represented India twice at the Olympics. Her dad caddied for her in Rio de Janeiro in 2016; her mom was on the bag in Tokyo in the summer of 2021 for the Covid-delayed 2020 Games. Aditi just missed a medal, finishing fourth.

Without her dad on the bag this week in Michigan, Ashok played her first two rounds (68-67) bogey-free, “so I kind of rub that in his face a little bit,” she said, smiling.

“I think apart from myself, I think he knows my game the best,” Aditi said. “In some situations he probably knows it better than me. That’s what’s helped I think with him being my caddie, especially the previous three, four weeks where I’ve been in contention.

“He’s been obviously great. I probably wouldn’t be here if not for him. Yeah, I’m happy I’m playing well Father’s Day weekend.”

Japan’s Furue takes the midway Meijer LPGA lead – with a familiar face closing fast

By Jeff Babineau

BELMONT, Mich. – Leona Maguire is that pesky, persistent neighborhood teen who keeps pounding on your front door at the dinner hour, trying to convince you to purchase a full set of encyclopedias. At Blythefield Country Club, she simply will not go away, nor will she accept no for an answer.

Two years ago in Michigan, Maguire played great early, faded late, and finished second to Nelly Korda, who blistered the golf course (25-under 263) on her way to victory. Last year, Maguire quietly sneaked into the picture on Sunday, shooting 65 to close, then lost when she missed a short birdie putt on the second hole of a playoff to lose to Jennifer Kupcho.

Friday, Maguire, from Cavan, Ireland, was charging hard again, this time across the low-lying valley of the back nine as so many around her simply were grinding to make the cut. Maguire birdied four straight holes beginning at the 12th, and then got a bonus, holing out from the fringe for eagle-3 at the par-5 18th to put the finishing touches on a second-round, 7-under 65. It put her within a shot of tournament leader Ayaka Furue of Japan (67).

“I think I was just too far back on Sunday last year,” said Maguire, who broke through to win for the first time on the LPGA in early 2022. “Obviously had a really good Sunday, but was too far back. I kind of did the opposite of what I did the year before. I had a really good Thursday-Friday in ’21 and then ’22, I had a really good Sunday.

“So, trying to be a bit more consistent this year hopefully, and just put two more good rounds together over the weekend.”

The day began with a crowd at the top, and not much changed after 18 holes on another good day for scoring at Blythefield. Furue moved to 11-under 133, one shot better than a foursome of pursuers: Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim (who matched Maguire’s 65) and Amy Yang (69), Spain’s Carlota Ciganda (66), and Maguire. Twenty-five players are within five shots of Furue’s lead, and there is no reason for players to stop attacking a golf course yielding birdies over the weekend. Friday’s scoring average was 71.23.

The lead on the weekend should be hotly contested, and again, Maguire is right there.

Maguire, 28, started nicely this season, cooled for a spell, and has found some form of late. She was third in the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play in Las Vegas, and two weeks ago tied for seventh at the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National. Friday, Maguire offset a pair of bogeys – including a sloppy one at the par-5 10th hole – with seven birdies and an eagle. In her four-birdie sprint that began at the 12th, the longest putt was a 10-footer at No. 15.

“I think it’s just steadily been getting better and better,” Maguire said of her game. “Saw my coach (Shane O’Grady) last week down in Orlando. Came over for a few days, so we were just kind of fine-tuning.

“There is no major changes needed. I drove the ball really, really well yesterday; not quite as well today. Yeah, you just need to be doing everything solid around here, which is nice prep going into a major next week.”

Furue, 23, also arrived to Michigan in strong form, too. She is not a long hitter (she ranks 142nd on tour, averaging 247.3 yards) but is highly accurate, hitting 86 percent of her fairways. At Blythefield, all the players in the field can get to a majority of the par-5 holes, or at least get shots up around the putting surfaces. Furue birdied three of the par-5 holes on Friday.  

In between a pair of fourth-place finishes, she lost in the championship match of the Match-Play. In two rounds at Blythefield, Furue, who dresses in bright, vibrant colors, has only a single bogey. On Friday, she was bogey-free. Her clean card was threatened at the par-4 third hole, where she had to escape a fairway bunker, eventually making a 20-footer for par.

“It was my impressive one,” Furue said of the par save.

Minjee Lee, last year’s U.S. Women’s Open champion, made a nice move up the board with her 67, a round that included a pair of “soft” bogeys in her opening three holes. She rebounded with a birdie at the fourth hole, and was fine after that.

Lee’s round included an eagle at the par-5 eighth, where she hit 6-iron to 14 feet. Ciganda made eagle at the eighth, too. Difference was, a few holes earlier she also made eagle-3 at the par-5 fourth. It was the second time in as many years that the long-hitting Ciganda made two eagles in a single round at Blythefield.

Friday’s cut fell at 2-under 142, and claimed some of the field’s bigger names. Not playing on the weekend: Charley Hull (72 on Friday), Lexi Thompson (74), Lydia Ko (72), Stacy Lewis (74) and In-Gee Chun (70). Brooke Henderson, a two-time winner at Blythefield, struggled on Friday but birdied her final hole to earn her way into the weekend.  

The weekend forecast at Blythefield calls for more of the same as far as scoring. Birdies with a chance of scattered eagles. Going low is the mantra. Maguire will be one to watch, knocking on that door as persistently as she ever has.

Finally, Harigae flips the switch

By Jeff Babineau

Mina Harigae opened this week’s Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give with a round of 74, which put her in 118th place early Friday, potentially headed for a sixth consecutive missed cut in an LPGA stroke-play event. Harigae was 4-over-par for the tournament when she stepped to the tee at the par-3 fifth at Blythefield Country Club.

She needed something to happen to turn things around. And fast.

She and her newlywed husband, Trent Kreiter, who doubles as Harigae’s caddie, had a heart-to-heart on Thursday night. “It’s coming,” he told her. “I told her to tell herself that today (Friday) is the day.”

He apparently was on to something. She hit 9-iron to 5 feet at the fifth. Birdie. Got up and down from a bunker at the par-5 eighth. Birdie. Hit it to 6 feet at the 10th, and 4 feet at the 12th, getting back to level par. At the par-3 13th the light bulb really went on. She smashed a 5-iron from 179 yards to inside 2 feet. A nice up-and-down produced birdie at the par-5 14th. At the 16th, she she hit 9-iron to 11 feet, and made the putt up the hill.

She not only would be around for the weekend after her 67 (3-under 141), she had crept up on the leaders, too. She will enter the weekend only seven shots out of second place. Seven birdies, no bogeys in a 14-hole run can move a player up the board.

Said Kreiter, “We got out of the funk.”

“It was needed,” said Harigae, who, at 33, is coming off her best two LPGA seasons. (She was runner-up in last summer’s U.S. Women’s Open). “Golf is hard. You can be doing all the right things, and it just doesn’t happen sometimes. …

It was great, it had been a while. It finally felt like me again.”

Olson has the weekend off, but made her mark in Michigan

By Jeff Babineau

Amy Olson, who is six months pregnant, shot 74-75 and missed the cut at the Meijer LPGA. But that’s not to say her week wasn’t memorable.

Monday at Blythefield Country Club, Olson made the seventh ace of her career, holing a 6-iron from 160 yards at the 15th hole. Two days later, in the tournament’s pro-am, she made the first albatross (double-eagle 2) of her life at the par-5 14th hole. Well, sort of. We’ll let Olson tell the story:

“It was scramble, so it wasn’t my drive. We were about 208 yards out and I hit a 5-wood, and it disappeared over a little ridge, so we just didn’t know.,” she said “We got up there and didn’t see anything on the green … looked in the hole, and sure enough, there it was. That was the first one (for me). I don’t ‘totally’ count it, because it was a scramble, but yeah … “

“I obviously needed those things to happen in the tournament, right?”

Hey, Olson got a cool photo with her group and a very cool Instagram photo and post out of the deal. Olson now will look forward to next month’s U.S. Women’s Open, being played for the first time at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Olson was medalist in her qualifier in Minnesota a few weeks back, shooting 6-under 138 over 36 holes at Somerset Country Club in Mendota Heights. She tied for 60th a year ago at the Women’s Open. Competing in her seventh month of pregnancy will be challenging, but Pebble is just too historic to pass on.

“It’s harder to turn (in her swing),” she said, smiling. “I’m going to do everything I can to get the game in shape. There’s just a lot more weight to carry with you. But I’m looking forward to it.”

It will be the final event she plays before the arrival of her child.

Kuehn will be back even stronger 

By Jeff Babineau

Amateur Rachel Kuehn, who recently helped lead Wake Forest to the women’s NCAA golf title, was making just her second LPGA start, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, and was in good shape following her opening 69. When she went out and birdied her opening hole on Friday, she was 4 under. But her day would not go as expected. Kuehn doubled the par-4 12th and bogeyed three of her first four holes to start the first nine, which was her second. She rallied to birdie Nos. 6 and 7, but her 74 left her just outside the cutline.

Kuehn, a two-time ACC Player of the Year, will return to Wake Forest in the fall, utilizing an extra year of eligibility that came about because of Covid. Rest assured, she and other top amateurs took note of Rose Zhang, their uber-talented peer, winning in her professional debut in New Jersey two weeks ago.

“I think it kind of lets everyone know, okay, just because you’re an amateur, just because you’re a college player, doesn’t mean that your game can be that far off from being able to compete out here,” Kuehn said on Thursday.

“Obviously the players out here, they’re incredible. They play week in and week out. But if Rose can come out here and do it — no one is quite in Rose’s league, but it means when you have your “A” game you can come out here and compete, and it kind of just puts everything in perspective. But she is incredible.”