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LIers Annie Park, Kelly Shon cope with long, hot U.S. Open

Annie Park takes a club from her caddie

Annie Park takes a club from her caddie and mother, Ann Park, during a practice round for the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament. (July 4, 2012) Credit: AP

KOHLER, Wis. -- Had it been just a matter of nerves, that would have shown up right away. And that was not what happened to Annie Park, who had a good shot at birdie and made a tap-in par on the first U.S. Women's Open hole she ever played, or Kelly Shon, who started with seven consecutive pars.

What made it a long day for the two Long Islanders was something else altogether: The Open is just so darned difficult. If a shot is off just a little bit, a course such as Blackwolf Run will turn it into a major problem. Add in a heat index of 105 degrees and a snail's pace that made a round longer than a cross-country flight, and you have the makings of a high score.

Still, it's what you expect when you sign up for an Open. "Oh, it's fun," Shon said after shooting 6-over-par 78, "but it was hot."

Park said after her 9-over-par 81, "I could have shot better, but those long irons . . . "

The 17-year-old from Levittown said long-iron shots were the ones that went into water hazards on both par-3 holes during her first nine holes (both she and Shon started on No. 10, in the first two groups). Another long iron found water on the long par-4 fifth. She was 5 over on those three holes alone. Worse yet, she had a lot of time to dwell on them.

After her threesome made the turn, it caught up with the last group that started on the front nine. The round took 5 hours, 40 minutes, which was quicker than many others played. That is part of the Open.

"I think I learned what to expect, like the pace," Park said, adding that she figured out what to do during the delays: "Just drink water, eat, stretch out."

On days like she had Thursday, a golfer just has to keep grinding and prevent the round from getting way out of control. Park did make two birdies on her second nine and played her final four holes in par. "Through the years, I've learned never to give up," she said.

Bill Nelson, her mental conditioning coach, said, "On any other course, today was probably a 72 or 73. But this just magnifies your mistakes."

Shon can attest to that. The 20-year-old Princeton student from Port Washington hit the ball solidly and consistently, especially through those first seven holes, when she was within a shot of the early leaders. But approach shots that went just a little right -- into high rough near the third green, into the lake by the fifth green -- became bogeys. She didn't make any birdies.

"There are definitely birdie opportunities out there. I just missed a whole bunch," she said. "But I'll have the same mentality going into tomorrow."

That approach will be to just play her own game, not try to force things. If she can shoot par or better, maybe she can make the cut, which she missed by only a shot at last year's Open.

She definitely will have the same support from Rachel Blum, a former Princeton teammate who drove from Washington D.C. just to watch Shon. She was proud, especially of her friend's start. "This doesn't happen every day," Blum said.

Park also had a long-distance traveler in her gallery. Mike Froloff of Seaford, who often plays with Park at Bethpage, flew out Wednesday night. "It was well worth it to see her first Open," he said. "It won't be her last."

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