Two of the University of Kentucky’s All-Americans showcased their mettle and determination during the opening round of stroke play at the prestigious 2023 U.S. Women’s Amateur. The event, held at the scenic Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, California, saw these Wildcats shine despite the challenging conditions on Monday.
Jensen Castle, the celebrated 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion and a rising graduate student, performed commendably, achieving an even-par 72. This secured her a share of the T19 spot. Close on her heels, the 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur co-Stroke Play Medalist Honoree and rising senior Laney Frye rounded off the day with a 2-over-par 74, landing her a shared spot at T57.
Given the format, only the top 64 players will proceed to the match play after the 36 holes of stroke play, which is scheduled to start on Wednesday. The track record of both Wildcats is noteworthy. Castle has consistently reached the match play each summer since 2020, while Frye has done so since 2021.
The day’s play wasn’t devoid of drama. An unexpected 40-minute fog delay on Monday morning momentarily halted the competition. But Castle, originating from West Columbia, South Carolina, remained unfazed and showcased her prowess right from the beginning. She began her round brilliantly with birdies on the par-5 No. 1 and par-4 No. 2, momentarily leading the championship. The round eventually turned out to be a game of pairs for Castle – she encountered consecutive bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5, followed by successive birdies on Nos. 6 and 9, and another pair of bogeys on Nos. 11 and 18. Despite the ups and downs, she managed to close the first round even par. Castle now stands just four strokes behind the leading pair, Americans Caroline Canales and Briana Chacon.
Later in the day, as the afternoon sun started to wane, Frye started her round at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET. The talented senior, who triumphed in the stroke-play section of this championship just a year ago, had a surprisingly challenging start on Monday. Kicking off on the back nine, Frye was 4-over through her initial six holes. This included bogeys on the par-3 No. 10, par-4 No. 15, and a double bogey on the par-3 No. 13. But champions are made of resilience. Frye steadily found her rhythm, clocking in birdies on Nos. 18 and 7 with ten pars interjected. This commendable recovery not only improved her score but also kept her within the projected cut line as she gears up for the second round on Tuesday.
As the competition intensifies, all eyes will be on these two Wildcats as they aim to keep the University of Kentucky’s flag flying high in the upcoming rounds.