Newbies O’Toole, Salas off to strong Open starts

Ryann O'Toole during the LPGA State Farm Classic

Ryann O'Toole during the LPGA State Farm Classic

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With little more than an hour to rest between her first and second rounds at the U.S. Women’s Open, Ryann O’Toole stood before the media Friday and let loose with a long grocery list for keeping up her energy.

“Bananas, power bars, nuts – anything that you can basically stomach at this point,” she said. “Trying to drink water with a little bit of Powerade that they have out there to keep the sugars up a bit and levels even. If you wait then you drop, there’s no coming back.”

O’Toole, a picture of fitness, will need every bit of energy she can muster at The Broadmoor as she completes a marathon Friday. She went to the clubhouse after the first round with a 2-under 69. She only got to roll a few putts on the practice green Thursday before a storm cloud puffed up and prompted play to be suspended an hour and 13 minutes before her 1:58 p.m. tee time.

Good thing youth also is in her corner.

O’Toole, 24, is in her rookie season on the LPGA. She is splitting time between the LPGA and Futures Tour this year, and earned her third victory on the developmental tour in April at the Santorini Riviera Nayarit Classic. She has yet to crack the top 30 in four LPGA starts this year, but The Broadmoor seems to suit her eye. On a course stretching 7,047 yards, O’Toole said she never hit more than a 7-iron into a green.

Well, there was that one time she got stuck in the U.S. Open-style rough at No. 17, but that required only a 6-iron.

“Perfect example, the LPGA Championship two weeks ago, that was very tight and very narrow,” O’Toole said of how the course fits her game. “This is wide open. It’s crucial to hit the fairways because the rough is killer.”

O’Toole got to 2 under after four holes, courtesy of back-to-back chip-ins at Nos. 2 (for par) and 3 (for birdie). She maintained that pace throughout the morning, clinging to the good round she had going as she came into the clubhouse. After salvaging par from the rough at No. 17, O’Toole came just a few feet short of hitting her drive out-of-bounds right at the 18th. She took her two-putt from the front of the green and got out of Dodge, hoping to rest and refuel before the start of Round 2.

The California blonde is relishing the atmosphere this week at her first Women’s Open.

“I feel like we’re at a PGA Tour event, with all the people that come out and watch and are supporting us,” she said. “It makes you feel really special. This is exactly what you dream of when you’re growing up and saying, ‘Oh, I want to be a professional golfer.’ ”

Another Futures Tour regular (albeit a younger one), Lizette Salas finds herself in a similar boat. Salas, who also opened with 69, graduated from USC two months ago as the first women’s golfer in school history to be named a four-time All-American. Since turning professional, she has finished in the top 10 in two Futures Tour events, most recently tying for fourth at the Island Resort Championship in Harris, Mich., where she was in contention early in the week.

“I know in that event I came really close – one shot behind her – and even though I was three shots off, I didn’t give up,” Salas said. “Just my putting has helped me a lot and boosted up my confidence a little bit.”

Salas, making her second Women's Open start, had three birdies - including a 30-foot putt at No. 15 - and just one bogey in her round. She never missed a fairway, and said her round was a product of not trying to force any magic. Wise words, indeed, from a newbie, who acknowledges that a solid finish here would set up her career nicely.

“It would be awesome and be a good note on my resume,” she said. “It will be good for the future, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. I’ve just been a pro for a month, and so far, so good. Loving life.”

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