Korda, Clanton steer U.S. to WWATC lead

Jessica Korda hits a shot during Day 1 of the Women's World Amateur Team Championship.

Jessica Korda hits a shot during Day 1 of the Women's World Amateur Team Championship.

BUENOS AIRES – There was a time when the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship must have felt like a global snoozefest. Team USA owned this championship from 1966-1976 and won at least once every four years until 1998. Since then they’ve been blanked.

Jessica Korda points to the LPGA for proof of stiffer world competition. Cydney Clanton said the three-count-two format is pressure-packed.

“We’ve had good teams,” Clanton said. “They just haven’t been able to put it together.”

Judging by Round 1, this U.S. team came ready to play. Both Korda and Clanton posted rounds of 4-under 68 Oct. 20 at Olivos Golf Club to give Roberta Bolduc’s team a four-stroke advantage over Argentina and France. Pepperdine sophomore Danielle Kang, the 2010 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, posted a 70. Her score ties the lowest round thrown out by a team in tournament history. 

“That third score could come into play somewhere along the way,” said Bolduc. In the event of a tie, officials use discarded rounds to declare the winner. Australia won a tiebreaker against Thailand at the ’02 event in Malaysia. Australia had a pair of Pepperdine players that year in Katherine Hull and Lindsey Wright.

Kang turned 18 Oct. 20 and will choose between her dual citizenship of America and Korea.

“Korea is gone,” she said. As captain Bolduc said, the U.S. is happy to have her.

Team USA’s 8-under 136 sets a record for lowest first-round score. Canada shot 137 six years ago in Puerto Rico.

Defending champion Sweden struggled to a 2-over 146. Caroline Hedwall, low individual at the ’08 event, shot 75. No team has successfully defended since the U.S. in 1990.

Crowds were generous for Day 1, with host Argentina paired with USA on a picture-perfect day. Argentina stood knotted atop the leader board with the Americans midway through the round. They finished 4 under, tied with France four strokes back. Sixteen-year-olds Victoria Tanco and Manuela Carbajo Re shot 70 while Kent State senior Martina Gavier shot 74.

Tanco, who lives 30 minutes away from Olivos, won back-to-back AJGA Player of the Year honors in 2008 and ’09. Two years ago, she chose an AJGA tournament over the World Amateur and is therefore making her first appearance in the event.

Tanco spoke to Korda, 17, about how to petition the LPGA for a special exemption into Q-School. She plans to try for Q-School next fall. Tanco will turn 18 Feb. 25, 2012.

While Tanco was exempt onto the Argentinean team, Gavier and Re had to endure an eight-round qualifier at Olivos and Buenos Aires Golf Club. This is Gavier’s third WWATC appearance and Re’s first. Argentina’s best finish in 22 tries is fifth place. The only other time the Espirito Santo was hosted in Buenos Aires was 1972, and Argentina placed eighth.

Re, a 2012 graduate, carded six birdies in her round of 70, including one on the par-5 18th. As of now, she’s looking at West Coast schools for college. Re won the 2010 Optimist Junior and South American Junior.

• France’s Alexandra Bonetti carded five birdies on the front nine at Olivos and shot 67. She leads the individual race in Buenos Aires, though the individual winner is not officially recognized. Bonetti helped give France a 4-under total, tying them with Argentina.

• Kelli Shean, a member of the victorious ’06 South African team and this year’s U.S. Women’s Open darling, shot 70 to lead her country.

• Nigeria and Croatia were unable to make it to Buenos Aires, giving the event 52 teams. It’s still four countries higher than the previous record set in Puerto Rico (’04) and Australia (’08). Guam, Israel, Slovenia and Tanzania are making their first appearances. This event has no cut.

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