The first sign of major championship buzz Thursday morning came at the 10th tee when Inbee Park, Lexi Thompson and Ariya Jutanugarn waltzed to the starter’s area flanked by a uniformed guard, the only group of the early wave to have a dedicated police presence.
About 30 minutes later a party showed up and the tee was rockin’.
Amy Olson’s friends, family and business sponsors came to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship armed with 250 teal “Amy’s Army” T-shirts. As the flock made its way through Hazeltine’s hills, the wave of supporters stuck out far more than the manicured landscape.
Olson, who won 20 college tournaments while playing for North Dakota State, recently moved back to her college town when husband Grant took an assistant coaching job with the Bison football team. They have numerous regional connections from Fargo to Wayzata, where Grant was a star linebacker for the Trojans in high school. And the support was unmistakable.
The only bummer? Grant can’t be in Chaska this week because of football duties.
“When she started golfing we had no idea it would develop into a career for her and she’d be on tour all over the world,” said Twyla Anderson, Amy’s mother. “When it started going in that direction, we just said, ‘Well, we’re going on a ride.’ And it’s been a very fun ride.”
Olson made a triple bogey on the par-3 eighth hole and shot 5 over. But she voiced support in a tweet after her round: “Loved seeing all the “Amy’s Army” T-shirts on the first tee today!! A great start to @KPMGWomensPGA week at Hazeltine!”
A long Hazeltine course was made longer with Thursday’s weather conditions. That might have bothered some players used to shorter yardages on tour, but Annie Park was among those who found the layout, well, comforting.
A native of Levittown, N.Y., Park cut her golf teeth playing the five courses at Bethpage State Park. Yes, even the gigantic Black Course.
“A lot of the workers there just know me as ‘Ten-Year-Old Annie’ because I was fortunate to be there all the time,” Park said. “I learned a lot there not just about golf but about how to game plan for tough rounds.”
Park found her way out of trouble Thursday, shooting 2-under 70 despite hitting just nine of 14 fairways. She played holes 6-10 in 4 under.
“The putt on 10 was downhill right-to-left fast maybe 25-30 feet and I hit it just straight in the gut,” Park said. “I missed a few others but there’s always [Friday].”
Angel Yin missed the cut at the ShopRite Classic two weeks ago and didn’t play at the event last week in Michigan. With time off to tinker she came to Hazeltine with some new configurations to her irons.
“I think, like, maybe 20 grams lighter,” she said after shooting a 1-under 71. “I can’t remember. My memory is going bad. I’m getting old and I’m weak. Age is catching up to me.”
Yin turns 21 in October.
Far apart, again
Before Round 1, Nelly Korda lamented she and older sister Jessica are always placed on opposite waves in the opening two rounds, meaning their parents and other supporters put in long days.
“They’re like, ‘Well, we know we’re walking 36 holes Thursday and Friday,’ ” Korda said.
The odds of the Kordas being paired for a weekend round took a slight hit Thursday. Nelly shot even-par 72 and Jessica a 74, but the Round 1 scores are so compact there are 29 players between them on the leaderboard.
At least the Kordas have next month to look forward to, when they will pair together for the inaugural Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational event in Midland, Mich.
Of course, they have a name already picked out: Team Jelly.