REUNION, Fla. –– On a day were the winds were high and the temperature didn’t get above 50 degrees, defending Annika Invitational champion Bethany Wu found herself atop the leaderboard after the first round.
Wu, a UCLA commit, shot a bogey-free 4-under 68 at Reunion Resort’s 6,347-yard Watson course. She began her round with 14 consecutive pars after starting on No. 1.
“I couldn’t feel my club (when gripping it) on the first hole,” Wu said. “My hands were too cold, so I couldn’t hit any (good) shots on the first couple of holes. I just needed to keep warm in the morning. That’s all I had to do.”
Once the sun came out in the afternoon, Wu started to heat up, as well. She finished her round with four consecutive birdies – all within 10 feet of the cup.
Wu, No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin junior rankings, is looking to become the first back-to-back champion in the event’s six-year history.
The Diamond Bar, Calif., native still believes she has to shoot low over the next few days in order to capture the title again because “it’s a pretty strong field, as always, and they can all go low out here.”
Sitting in second place is Ziyi Wang of Beijing. Wang, who comes to the U.S. mostly during the summer to play on the AJGA circuit, fired a 2-under 70 with five birdies and two bogeys. She is a 2016 graduate and wants to play college golf in the U.S., although she has not given a verbal commitment.
Another shot back is Jennifer Pang of San Diego. Pang, who will attend Yale in the fall, is still looking for her first career AJGA victory. She is playing the Annika Invitational for the first time, and said it would be “awesome” to get her first win at Reunion.
Pang came close to winning twice last year, at the Killington Junior Golf Championship and the Ravenwood Junior Championship.
The 31st-ranked player in the Golfweek/Sagarin junior rankings said: “I just need to try to hit my irons a little better, keep up my putting and hopefully everything will fall into place.”
Wu, Wang and Pang were the only three players to shoot under par in the 72-player field on Saturday.