2004: Amateurs share stage at Open

By Jay A. Coffin

South Hadley, Mass.

Teen-age amateurs were all the rage at the U.S. Women’s Open. Four made the cut, three made major noise. One led after the first round, two tied for 13th. Brittany Lincicome, Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer served notice that the future of women’s golf has arrived.

Lincicome, an 18-year-old from Seminole, Fla., shot 66 July 1 at The Orchards and led after the first round, becoming the first amateur to lead after Day 1 since Cindy Hill in 1973. The 66 – including five birdies, one eagle and two bogeys – tied Carol Semple Thompson (1994) for low score by an amateur in the Open. Although Lincicome faltered with 77-76-78 to finish 55th, she closed with a birdie from 2 feet on the 72nd hole, her lone birdie of the final round.

“I think I learned a lot about my game and myself,” Lincicome said. “I think I learned that if I’m not smiling and bubbly, my game is going to go south.”

Lincicome, home-schooled during high school by parents Tom and Angie, who have owned a preschool for 15 years, had planned to turn professional later this year, most likely after another full summer of junior and amateur golf. However, success at the Open has Lincicome thinking she may seek sponsor exemptions into LPGA events. If she receives an invitation, she’ll seriously consider turning pro immediately.

It was fitting that Creamer, 17, and Wie, 14, shared low amateur honors, both shooting 1-over 285 to tie for 13th and earn exemptions into the 2005 Open. The two have been linked over the past year because of similar success at a young age, but the duo insists there isn’t a rivalry between them. Their history suggests otherwise.

Creamer had tied for second at the ShopRite LPGA Classic and finished 13th at the Wegmans Rochester LPGA the previous two weeks. Wie finished fourth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March and had lost June 27 in the finals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. Both were members of the U.S. Curtis Cup squad that won last month in England.

With two holes remaining at the Open, low amateur honors still had not been settled. A costly double bogey at 17 put Creamer one behind Wie. She then rebounded with birdie on 18 from 6 feet to shoot 72 and move into a tie with Wie, who had one hole remaining. Wie’s approach landed short of the 18th green, but she got up and down for par and the two tied for the medal.

“I didn’t play the way I wanted to but I’m still happy with how I finished,” Wie said. “I did a lot better than last year, and I got an exemption for next year.”

Said Creamer: “I’m fatigued after a long couple of weeks. But this is what I want to do, and that only motivates me more out here.”

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