Ward leads field of ASU golfers at U.S. Women’s Open

Wendy Ward is setting the pace for a group of former ASU golfers, as the first day of competition concluded at the U.S. Women’s Open at the fabled Oakmont Country Club.

Ward, a two-time Pac-10 champion and three-time All-American during her career at ASU, shot a 1-over round of 72 to put her in early contention.  While at ASU from 1993-95, Ward was considered by many to be one of the best collegiate players of all time and was inducted into the NGCA Hall of Fame in 2008.

Brittany Lang, a two-time runner-up on the LPGA Tour, leads the field after the first round, carding a 2-under 69.

Joining Ward on the first tee for an early-morning start was another former ASU standout, Azahara Munoz, who just graduated in May.  Munoz is the current leader in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race, sitting in 58th place in the overall Rolex Rankings.  She has not missed a cut so far in her professional career.

Munoz shot a 4-over 75 in the opening round, but is not the next ASU golfer on the board.  Above her is Louise Stahle, who carded a 72 yesterday.  Stahle didn’t hang around Tempe very long, turning professional after her freshman year when she was the Sun Devil’s NGCA Player of the Year honoree.

Still within striking distance are several competitors who just left the ASU program, including one professional and two playing as amateurs.

Anna Nordqvist shot a 6-over round of 77.  Nordqvist was a First Team All-American while at ASU and got off to a great professional start, finishing second in last year’s Rookie of the Year race and winning her first major last year.  She is currently sixth in the Rolex Rankings.

A pair of amateurs who also just left the Tempe campus round out the group.

Jennifer Johnson had a brief, but impressive, career at ASU last year when she won Freshman of the Year honors and was selected to the Pac-10 First Team.

Johnson left unexpectedly after her freshman season (see June 30 Phxfan article).  She will turn pro after the Open, waiting until then so that she can use her amateur exemption into the field that she earned by finishing as runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Amateur last year.

Johnson is in with Nordqvist, clustered  with 13 golfers tied at 6-under.

Juliana Murcia Ortiz is the other recent ASU grad playing as an amateur.  She finished the first round with an 8-over score of 79.  Ortiz was a member of the 2009 NCAA Championship team and was named a First Team All-American before graduating in May.

The U.S. Women’s Open was added to the USGA’s list of championship events back in 1953 and has become an international event, with dozens of countries represented.

The 72-hole scoring record is 272, but the rugged Oakmont Country Club course in Pennsylvania will likely preserve that mark for at least another year.  There were only five golfers who managed to break par and only Lang managed to shot in the 60’s – and just barely.