Danielle Ammaccapane prepared for the U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship alongside her sister and fellow competitor, Dina Ammaccapane, practicing at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club together as they tried to decipher the riddle that is the classic and demanding Donald Ross layout. On Thursday, Danielle seemed to find more answers than any of her fellow competitors, posting a 1-over 72 that put her atop the leader board after Round 1. She is one stroke clear over a trio that includes 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champion Liselotte Neumann, Nanci Bowen and Barbara Moxness.
Ammaccapane, 53, like the rest of the field, was not immune to the challenges that Pine Needles provides, and never had a stretch of more than three straight holes without bogey on her card. She was able to overcome that with six birdies, the most of any competitor, including one on the par-4 17th, which played as the toughest hole during the first round.
Round One of U.S. Senior Women’s Open by Sandhills Sentinel Sports Photographer John Patota.
“I hit it okay today. Didn’t hit it in any trouble,” said Ammaccapane, who finished fourth in the inaugural playing of the championship in 2018 at Chicago Golf Club. “The greens are just so difficult. I mean, you can’t even let up on a one-footer. I think I missed a one-footer out there. But then you make some birdies. I hit a few putts where I was like, it’s not going in, and it went in.”
Playing with Moxness in one of the earlier groups on Thursday morning, it looked for a time like Neumann, who tied for sixth last year, would have a chance to post a red number. She made the turn in even par, but back-to-back bogeys on hole Nos. 1 and 2 (she started her round on No. 10) derailed those plans. She matched birdies on hole Nos. 4 and 8 with bogeys on Nos. 5 and 7 to settle for a 2-over 73. Neumann, who turns 53 on Monday, took just 28 putts in Round 1, tied for the second lowest in the field.
Reigning champion Laura Davies and 2018 runner-up Juli Inkster both struggled at times in the first round, but are still in the mix heading into Round 2. Davies, who won by 10 strokes at Chicago Golf Club, is just three strokes behind Ammaccapane after a 4-over 75. The 1987 U.S. Women’s Open champion hit just 10 greens in regulation, and was tripped up by a double bogey on the par-4 17th hole, but made birdies on Nos. 8 and 11 to partially offset her mistakes.
Spectators at Round One of U.S. Senior Women’s Open by Sandhills Sentinel Sports Photographer John Patota.
Inkster, a two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion, shot 7-over 78, in large part due to balky putting. Even par through eight holes, she missed a par try from 2 ½ feet on No. 18, her ninth hole of the round, and proceeded to bogey the next two holes before making a double-bogey 5 on the par-3 third.
Eighty-year-old JoAnne Carner, who shot her age in the opening round in 2018, had a chance to do the same on Thursday. The eight-time USGA champion was 6-over through 15 holes before a double bogey and triple bogey on Nos. 16 and 17 put her in the clubhouse in 11-over 82.
Feature photo: Danielle Ammaccapane by Sandhills Sentinel Sports Photographer John Patota.