FRANKFORT, Ill. (June 21, 2022) – Jessica Mason felt like she was on a roller coaster on Tuesday – and the large, sloping greens at Prestwick Country Club weren’t the only reason.
The 18-year-old from Westminster, Colorado, made six birdies – including four on her opening nine – offsetting three bogeys and a pair of doubles as she posted a 1-over 73 to take the lead after day one of the 95th Women’s Western Junior.
“It was kind of a roller coaster,” Mason said. “But still a good day, overall.”
Mason, who won the Class 4A Colorado State Championship and the Colorado Junior PGA Championship in 2021, is playing in her first Women’s Western Junior. She got out of position on Nos. 9 and 14 on Tuesday, making double bogey on both, but rolled in birdies on Nos. 1, 2, 6, 7, 10 and 16.
That was enough to secure the lead on a blustery day when temperatures reached the mid-90s and most of the field struggled on the greens.
“There’s some holes where you have to have some good ball placement,” said Mason, who plans to attend Pomona College in Claremont, California, this fall. “I think the greens really make [Prestwick] what it is.”
The Women’s Western Junior continues with 18 more holes of stroke play Wednesday, after which the field of 78 will be cut to the low 16 players for match play.
Sitting in second at 2-over 74 are Maria Jose Barragan, of Morelia, Mexico; Haley Davis, of Ocala, Florida; Addison Klonowski, of Naples, Florida; and Kate Tilma, of Wichita, Kansas.
The 15-year-old Davis started a steady round with 13 consecutive pars but ran into trouble with bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15. She found herself against the lip of a bunker on No. 16 but was able to splash the ball onto the green and hole a downhill, sweeping par putt to stay in contention.
“I’m just going to try to play about the same,” she said, describing her mindset heading into Wednesday’s second round. “I want to make a few more putts, make a couple birdies, but just play steady. Just like today.”
Six players are tied at 3-over par, including sisters Anna and Lydia Swan, of North East, Pennsylvania; Kate Brody of Grand Blanc, Michigan; Lauren Pham, of Las Vegas, Nevada; C.A. Carter, of Lexington Kentucky; and Brynn Kort, of Henderson, Nevada.
Hadley Ashton, of Erie Colorado, leads a group of five players at 4-over par. Ashton had the shot of the day, holing out on the 130-yard, par-3 12th, with an 8-iron for her second career hole in one.
As she described how her mom screamed in reaction to the shot, Ashton was interrupted by playing partner Elizabeth Eberle, of Richmond, Kentucky.
“We were all screaming,” Eberle reminded Ashton.
First played in 1920, the Women’s Western Junior is one of the oldest junior golf tournaments in the United States. Past champions include Candie Kung (1998), Christie Kerr (1994), Grace Park (1993), and Nancy Lopez (1972, 1973, 1974).
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nancy Lopez’s historic win at the 1972 Women’s Western Junior, which was also played at Prestwick. Lopez went on to repeat as Women’s Western Junior champion in 1973 and 1974 before winning the 1976 Women’s Western Amateur and embarking on a professional career that included 51 professional wins and three major championships. Prestwick also hosted the 2020 Women’s Western Amateur, won by Canada’s Brigitte Thibault.
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