Donna Andrews

Donna Andrews hits a shot on the first hole during the first round of the 2019 U.S. Senior Women's Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. on Thursday. She hit the opening tee shot of the 2nd U.S. Senior Women's Open this morning at 7:30 a.m. (Copyright USGA/Chris Keane)

Danielle Ammaccapane shot a one-over-par 72 at Pine Needles Thursday to take the first-round lead of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

“All in all, it’s playing tough, so I’m happy,” she said.

That was an understatement. Not one of the 120 competitors finished in red numbers. Course statistics bore out Ammaccapane’s assertion about the course playing “tough.”

The Donald Ross creation, restored by Kyle Franz in 2017, yielded an overall average score of 80.6667.

There has been only 111 birdies, while there are 990 scores of bogey or over. All 18 holes are averaging over par.

Defending champ Laura Davies finished with a four-over-par 75 and she agreed with the assessment of the course as tough.

“It’s tough out here,” she said. “Really tough … I mean, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s scary out there.”

She said that the course wasn’t playing long and that the firm fairways added to shortening the course. But then she also pointed out the greens were also firm and fast.

“It’s definitely not playing long,” she said. “That doesn’t matter because it’s all about the green complexes. I think I said the other night at the party thing that your trouble starts when you get on the green. I’ve proved it today. I don’t know how many putts I had, but it was a lot.”

Donna Andrews, the head golf instructor at Pine Needles and former LPGA player, struck the first shot of the tournament at 7:30 a.m. this morning. She finished at seven-over-par 78. She was asked how differently the USGA set up the course than it normally plays.

“They've gotten the fairways very hard and very fast,” she said. “The course played so much shorter today than it played in either of the practice rounds. Of course the greens are harder and faster. I think that was the hard thing.

“Being local, you know, everybody thinks you have an advantage on the greens. But when they're two to three feet faster rolling than they normally are, it makes it harder to read the putts.”

Two other local residents had spots in the field, but Pinehurst resident Patty Moore withdrew Thursday morning because of a medical issue.

Sally Austin, who learned the game at Pine Needles and is now a teaching pro there, finished at 77. The former UNC women’s golf coach who now resides in Pinehurst was only four over with two holes to play, but bogied both the eighth and ninth hole (her 17th and 18th holes).

Barbara Moxness, Nanci Bowen and Liselotte Neumann are one stroke back of Ammaccapane, all with two-over-par 73s. Low amateurs for the day were Lisa McGill and Marianne Towersey, both with 76s.

Davies, who still competes full time, provided some perspective about the day’s high scores.

“You’ve got to remember, you've got a field of 50-plus-year-old ladies and only probably I would say five or six of us that play full time still,” she said. “If we're finding it tough, which I know we are. Juli (Inkster) is six-over; I'm four-over. (There are) some good players who are struggling.

“But that’s a U.S. Open. … The golf course is hard; that’s why we’re struggling.”

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