The U.S. will have to play catch up during the next three rounds of the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship at Carton House near Dublin, Ireland in order to lift the Espirito Santo Trophy for the first time since 1998.
The team of Jennifer Kupcho, Lilia Vu and two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman, the top three players, respectively, in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, lie six shots behind Japan in joint-eighth place after Wednesday’s opening round.
Yuka Yasuda led the Japanese charge with a 7-under 65. Teammates Yuri Yoshida and Yuna Nishimura each returned 1-under 71 in the play-three-count-two format.
“My short game and putting were very good,” said Yasuda, the world’s 22nd-ranked player. “I was hitting shots solid today and sinking three- to four-meter putts. I was very confident putting.”
Japan holds a two-shot lead over China, with Germany, Austria and defending champion South Korea tied for third at 4 under. The Japanese women are looking to make history by lifting the Espirito Santo Trophy for the first time since women began playing in the competition in 1964.
Kupcho returned the best score of the American trio, shooting 2-under 70. She’s tied for eighth in individual scoring. Vu shot level par while Gillman posted a 74.
U.S. women have won the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship 13 times, including six in a row from 1966. However, the last U.S. victory came in 1998 in Santiago, Chile, when the threesome of Kellee Booth, Jenny Chuasiriporn and Brenda Corrie-Kuehn won. The closest a U.S. team has come since then is second place in 2010 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when Jessica Korda, Cydney Clanton and Danielle Kang represented the Americans.
Ireland’s Olivia Mehaffey hit the opening tee shot and went on to shoot 70 to lead Ireland to a T-6 standings after Round 1. The Arizona State player is T-8 as an individual.
“A little bit of nerves,” Mehaffey said about hitting the first shot. “There was a lot of people out there, I didn’t expect so many people to be out there at a 7.45 a.m. tee time on a Wednesday. That was lovely.”