It would be both trite and inaccurate to say Annie Park felt right at home in a historic U.S. Women's Amateur on Long Island. For one thing, she stayed in Manhattan Sunday night rather than at her house in Levittown. More pertinent, the greens at Nassau Country Club were too difficult to make anyone feel comfortable.
Still, it was all close enough. It was a good day. In the first round Monday she shot 2-over-par 72, tied for 22nd. That put her in excellent position to be one of the top 64 who will make the cut Tuesday and start fresh with match play Wednesday. Still, none of that was the thing that made the biggest impression on her.
"I'm still in shock that I live 30 minutes away and there's a USGA event here," said the 19-year-old former NCAA women's champion, who has played in tournaments all over the world. "I didn't know there was this beautiful golf course here."
Nassau Country Club has been here a long time, having hosted the Women's Amateur 100 years ago, giving the membership incentive to hold it again. Park never set foot on the grounds until she came to a U.S. Golf Association promotional event last summer and had never played it before this summer.
"This golf course is not easy, especially with the length," she said, adding that, compared to the way Nassau played during her casual practice rounds, "the greens were faster."
Nassau was fair enough Monday to allow Australian Su-Hyun Oh to shoot 66, leading the 156-player field, and tough enough to have defending Women's Amateur champion Emma Talley of Princeton, Kentucky, shoot 76.
Park hit the ball as well as anyone on the course. On the 408-yard seventh hole, against the wind, her drive ended up just short of the 138-yard marker, meaning it traveled 270 yards. She hit her approach pin high to the fringe, chipped up and missed a two-foot putt. On the next hole, she hit two perfect shots, but missed an eight-footer for birdie and missed another two-foot par putt.
"I had just changed my putter," she said, "and I think I might change back to another one for tomorrow." She explained that she had been using a blade type, which required an arc-shaped stroke, and changed to a putter with a wide head. Park couldn't get the putter to release through the ball.
One of the best competitors dropped out. Doris Chen, Park's USC teammate and successor as NCAA champ, withdrew during the round with an ankle injury.
Park planned on being at home Tuesday night. She was going to be in her house, after she and her mom/caddie Ann stayed in a Manhattan hotel Sunday night to be with Annie's 11-year-old cousin, just in from Korea. Long Island-bound traffic Monday was tougher than they had expected. "We probably should have taken the train," she said, with a nod toward the Glen Cove station, beside the eighth green.
No matter the means of conveyance, Park seems to be going places. The soon-to-be college junior has hinted about turning pro. Monday, she said she still has not decided if that will happen soon -- even if she brings home the trophy Sunday night.
"I'm trying," she said, "to make the cut first."