A new queen of the teens at Women's Open

Wednesday, June 30th 2004, 10:42 am
By: News On 6

SOUTH HADLEY, Massachusetts (AP) _ Ready or not, the kids are coming.

A record 16 teenagers are in the U.S. Women's Open field this week and one of them topped the leaderboard Thursday during the rain-delayed first round.

It was not Michelle Wie.

Brittany Lincicome shot a 5-under 66 _ matching the lowest round by an amateur in tournament history _ to take a one-stroke lead at the Orchards Golf Club.

``There's a lot of juniors that are coming up. They're going to be amazing players, whether they go to college or decide to turn pro,'' the 18-year-old Lincicome said. ``The LPGA players better look out, because we're coming.''

She was among the fortunate ones able to finish before thunderstorms suspended play for three hours, leaving two-time Open champ Annika Sorenstam among 75 players who had to return Friday morning to finish the round.

Sorenstam was 2 under with three holes to play. Beth Daniel was at 3 under with six holes remaining.

Sorenstam still had to play Nos. 16-18, three of the most challenging holes on the course.

``That will wake me up for sure,'' Sorenstam said. ``We're going to have 21 holes (Friday), that's going to be plenty.''

Only five other players from the early starters broke par before storms swamped the Orchards.

Lincicome matched the lowest score ever by an amateur (Carol Semple Thompson in 1994 at Indianwood), and tied the back-nine record of 30.

Patricia Meunier-LeBouc, the 2003 Kraft Nabisco champion, birdied the final four holes for a 67, twice holing 25-foot putts.

Lincicome eagled the par-4 15th, holing a 7-iron shot from the rough. It brought the teen to tears.

``I looked at my dad and started bawling,'' the 6-foot Lincicome said. ``I could not stop. I walked all the way to the green, my mom started crying, and then I started crying even more. Don't look at your mom when you're crying.''

A lot of the fans missed most of Lincicome's sterling back nine. They were all following Wie, who recovered from a double-bogey on the par-3 fifth by hitting a 5-wood from 198 meters (220 yards) to 9 feet for an eagle on her final hole for a 71.

``It could have been a lot worse today, and that eagle really got me on the right foot for tomorrow,'' she said.

Another top teen, 17-year-old Paula Creamer, coming off second-and 12th-place finishes the last two weeks on the LPGA Tour, was 3 over through 10 holes, but recovered for a 72.

Grace Park, who has finished first and third in the first two majors this year, and two-time Women's Open champion Juli Inkster opened with 71s.

Defending champion Hilary Lunke showed plenty of heart. She was 4 over after four holes, about what everyone imagined from a short hitter on a course playing every bit of its 5,826 meters (6,473 yards). But Lunke buckled down with birdies, and a bogey on the 18th hole left her with a respectable 72.

Still, the day belonged to Lincicome.

``I figured that one of these days, if I proved myself, then people would notice who I was,'' she said. ``I wasn't really worried. Michelle Wie and everyone gets way more press. But I figured if you play good here, then it will come to me.''

In today's climate of kids taking on adults, Lincicome was patient. This was the first year she even tried to qualify for the Women's Open, and she was the co-medalist in Heathrow, Florida.

``I wanted to wait and make sure I was ready,'' she said. ``I didn't want to come in and not be at the top of my game. And I would say I'm ready.''