At U.S. Women’s Open, a 17-Year-Old Amateur Enters the Spotlight

SAN FRANCISCO — The first time Megha Ganne competed on considered one of the world’s most famous golf programs, her viewers included the two-time main winner Martin Kaymer, a former males’s world No. 1. It was at the 2015 finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt contest at Augusta National, and Kaymer was on the vary when an 11-year-old Ganne hit her first drive.

Six years later, with a lot greater stakes, Ganne is a 17-year-old newbie and is enjoying with aplomb on a related stage. In her second United States Women’s Open — which is being held for the first time at the Olympic Club, the website of 5 main males’s championships — she was at the high of the leaderboard after the early rounds on Friday.

Ganne, a highschool junior from Holmdel, N.J., adopted her opening-round four-under-par 67 on the Olympic Club’s Lake Course with an even-par 71 to at the very least quickly share first place with Megan Khang (70) whereas the afternoon wave of gamers was nonetheless on the course.

Ganne celebrating her birdie putt on the seventh gap.Credit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Ganne birdied her penultimate gap, No. 7, and drained a lengthy par putt at No. eight to take care of her momentum on a course made tougher by a heavy marine layer that turned each tee field into an icebox.

“It played a little bit longer, but other than that pretty similar,” an unfazed Ganne stated.

Ganne, a fast strider who swings her arms facet to facet as if in a hurry to get the place she’s going, had a quick turnaround between rounds.

She returned to the course Friday lower than 12 hours after she signed her opening-round scorecard and spoke about her efficiency as if her viewers was a passel of Holmdel High mates and never a media cluster. She credited her consolation stage right here to her publicity to the highlight as a four-time finalist in the Drive, Chip and Putt contest and as a participant on this yr’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

She is an Augusta National success story, the first graduate of the Drive, Chip and Putt finals to carry at the very least a share of the lead in a girls’s main.

“It’s really similar, you know, really prestigious and a lot of cameras and a lot of attention on you,” stated Ganne, who added, “It was great preparation for the pressure.”

The U.S. Women’s Open has all through its 76-year historical past been a sort of coming-out celebration for younger gamers, like the 10-year-old Beverly Klass in 1967, the 11-year-old Lucy Li in 2014 and the 12-year-old Lexi Thompson in 2007. After gaining acclaim for his or her youth, none survived the minimize.

The match is, in concept, the most accessible of majors. Nearly half the gamers on this yr’s subject — 76 of the 156 entrants, together with Ganne — earned their berths via 36-hole qualifiers held all through the nation. Ganne secured her spot on the second playoff gap of her qualifier. It speaks to the vagaries of golf that a teenager who was on the verge of elimination in qualifying can rise to the high of the leaderboard via two rounds.

“It just all seems really fun and a better story to tell than I got in without a playoff,” Ganne stated. The final newbie to guide after a spherical in the U.S. Women’s Open was Jane Park, a 19-year-old who held a share of first place after the opening spherical in 2006 at Newport Country Club.

Ganne’s galleries have included members of the girls’s golf teaching employees at Stanford, which she has verbally dedicated to attend beginning in the fall of 2022, and her household. Ganne’s father, Hari, is an information-technology skilled. Her mom, Sudha, is an endocrinologist, and her youthful sister, Sirina, 13, is an eighth grader who additionally performs golf.

Her mom stated her telephone had vibrated in her jacket pocket for the complete second 9 of her daughter’s first spherical and effectively into Thursday evening as texts arrived from mates and neighbors again in New Jersey. She awoke Friday to extra messages from relations in India. On Thursday, Sudha Ganne expressed a need for Megha to stay “a regular kid and enjoy other things” moreover golf.

A day later, Ganne’s mom waded via a gallery that had grown tenfold in a single day, stared at the leaderboard together with her daughter’s title atop it and nervous that somebody had sped up the belt conveying Megha via adolescence. She can hear the armchair profession counselors now: If Megha can contend for a $1 million winner’s examine whereas nonetheless in highschool, why go to school?

“She’s absolutely going to college. There’s no doubt about that,” Ganne’s mom stated.

But like the calculus homework awaiting Ganne’s consideration, success is introducing difficult variables. “I am a little overwhelmed with the attention, but I’m hoping she will cope with it and maybe we will try to help her with it,” Ganne’s mom stated.

Ganne appears fantastic with the consideration, however then, she all the time has gravitated to the highlight. She has appeared at school performs, as soon as as the Queen of Hearts after auditioning for the lead function of Alice in Wonderland. She threw herself into her portrayal as Alice’s fundamental protagonist.

“She was the Queen of Hearts and she lived it,” Ganne’s mom stated with a giggle.

But Ganne attracts a line at social media. That sort of consideration, she has determined, is pointless. Negativity that has been heaped on a few of her mates on Twitter has soured Ganne on the platform.

After her Thursday spherical, Ganne was interviewed by 15-year-old twins, Amelia and Adinah Dellegencia, who’re scholar journalists. They lauded Ganne’s “girl power” and described her as “pretty cool.” They requested for her Twitter deal with, and their jaws dropped in unison when she stated, “I’m social media-free, actually.”

Amelia recovered from the shock and stated, “She’s so cool. She should be on social media.”