Annie Park's wheels were wobbling after her second double-bogey, and she was fighting to hold her game together after knocking another approach over her 15th hole of the first round of the U.S. Women's Open Thursday at Sebonack Golf Club.
As she walked toward the green, the silence was broken by a man shouting, "C'mon, Annie! Long Island loves you!"
That sentiment was palpable from a crowd that would have given the 18-year-old from Levittown a hug of encouragement if it could have during a tough day in which she shot a 7-over- par 79 that left her in danger of missing the 36-hole cut. Despite her disappointment, Park handled it as gracefully as she swings.
Stepping to the podium in front of a media crowd outside the scoring trailer, she smiled and said, "This is interesting."
Asked if she sensed the crowd pulling for her, Park said she did. But she added, "It was kind of pressuring. But I'm glad I've experienced this now rather than later, and I'm grateful for that . . . It was different from me seeing Tiger play and all the crowds supporting [him], and then, me experiencing it myself was pretty cool."
If you listen to those who saw her win the NCAA title at USC as an early-admission freshman this spring, it's easy to anticipate Park drawing large crowds as a future pro. Former USC star Lizette Salas, who shot 68 to tie for third, said of Park, "She's scary good."
But in the first round, Park was a shade off, and that sent her the wrong way at Sebonack. Starting at No. 10, she lipped out a birdie putt and followed with a birdie at No. 11. But at the par-3 12th, her tee shot ended up in a "fried egg" lie in the front bunker, and she three-putted for double bogey.
Three-putt bogeys followed at No. 15 and No. 17 before a birdie at the par-5 18th provided some confidence. But her approach at No. 1 jumped into deep fringe behind the green, an impossible spot. A delicate downhill chip rolled 30 feet below the hole, and she bogeyed.
Park's most frustrating moment came at the 341-yard, par-4 fourth hole, her 13th of the day. Sensing a chance for birdie after a great drive, Park tried landing a wedge near a front pin but pushed it right into a trap. She splashed out nicely but then recorded her fourth three-putt for a double bogey that left her 5 over par, prompting a brief flash of anger.
"Yeah, it's funny because on the par putt, I was so confident in making it, and then I misread the putt," Park said. "I was like, 'OK, move on,' and then I missed the next putt. After that, I was trying to make some birdies, but it didn't work out . . . I was just struggling out there in general."
Park appeared to have some discomfort in her shoulders while finishing with bogeys on her final two holes and later confirmed she was diagnosed with a shoulder impingement after Wednesday's practice round. She didn't want to blame her score on her physical condition but said, "I just hope it doesn't get worse."
Looking forward to her second round, which begins Friday at 7:09 a.m on the No. 1 tee, Park said, "Hopefully, I get my putting back together. It's going to be a new day, and hopefully it's better."