SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. — Ingrid Lindblad made history Thursday, shooting the lowest round by an amateur in U.S. Women’s Open history with a six-under par 65 at Pine Needles Golf Club. But could she back it up on Friday, when the expectations were higher and more people were watching?
The spotlight shone even brighter with 72-time LPGA Tour winner Annika Sorenstam making her first major start in 14 years and playing in Lindblad’s group. There were also World No. 1 Jin Young Ko and American stalwart Lexi Thompson playing in the group in front of her.
None of it phased the Swede as she followed through Friday with a steady-handed even-par round to sit three shots off the lead, held by Minjee Lee and Mina Harigae at nine-under par. Her 136 strokes through two rounds set the 36-hole amateur scoring record.
“Yesterday I don’t think I ever realized what happened,” Lindblad said. “It was just when I got back to the hotel, I’m like, well, this is pretty good. I don’t think I realize how big it is. It’s like whenever you come to a big amateur tournament, like when I played Augusta for the first time last year, I was like, I didn’t realize how big this is until you get there and all the attention you get.”
When Lindblad returned to the hotel from her opening round Thursday, her phone lit up with messages. The LSU junior appreciated the recognition, but she didn’t want to let it distract her so she turned off her notifications. One text, however, stood out from the rest. Her assistant coach, Alexis Rather, a motherlike figure for the No. 2 amateur in the world, reminded her of her ability.
“You’ve put a lot of work into this,” Lindblad explained while tearing up, “a lot of hours. She’s, like, ‘I’m not surprised you’re there.’”
A record setting swing 🏌️♀️ Amateur @iingridlindblad starts her round now at the @uswomensopen. pic.twitter.com/E9Kz8s8Cpx— LPGA (@LPGA) June 3, 2022
A record setting swing 🏌️♀️ Amateur @iingridlindblad starts her round now at the @uswomensopen. pic.twitter.com/E9Kz8s8Cpx
Feeling confident off the tee Friday, Lindblad birdied the par 5 at Pine Needles just as she did on Thursday. From there, the 22-year-old made par after par, not matching the seven-birdie effort she put together in the first round but remaining in the hunt. She posted 31 putts in her second round, five more than Thursday.
“She didn’t have, obviously, the game that she had yesterday,” said Lindblad’s caddie, five-time LPGA winner Sophie Gustafson. “I mean, it was a little wayward and we had to get it up and down quite a few times. She never said, ‘Oh s–t, I missed it.’ She just said, ‘Oh well,’ and moved on.”
With electronic leaderboards on display around Pine Needles, Lindlblad tried not to check them during her round. And with stars playing in and around her group Friday, she didn’t get many cheers. The first one for her came after she walked out of the restroom on the 12th hole.
“I feel like I played good, but no one said that to me,” Lindblad said. “You just have to focus on yourself and your own game and not get too distracted by other things.”
She also had to balance other responsibilities off the course following her second round. Lindblad had to take a quiz and submit questions for her summer sports law class on Title IX and ADA. She requested an extension from her professor, but if she can’t update it, she’ll end up with a 37 out of 38. The grade is similar to Sorenstam’s evaluation of the amateur’s performance so far this week.
“It was a terrific round yesterday and today,” Sorenstam said. “What she did today I thought was maybe not equally as impressive, but it’s impressive to be able to hold it the way she did. She has a great attitude, and I told her, ‘I hope you are just enjoying this.’ I’m sure she will be in this spot a few times.
“Enjoy it. Trust yourself for the weekend. You have it.”
On Saturday, Lindlblad will play alongside Ko, the world No. 1, two tee times ahead of the final pairing. The four-time amateur tournament winner in 2022 enters the third round with an opportunity to make history. If Lindblad hoists the Harton S. Semple trophy on Sunday, she will become the first amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open since Catherine Lacoste at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., in 1967.
But even if Lindblad comes up short in the end, her historic opening 36-hole performance showed what her future holds on the LPGA Tour.
“For Ingrid to have that experience and perform well in that opportunity,” said Golf Channel commentator Kay Cockerill, who followed Lindblad on Friday, “is a memory for her to call upon for years and years.”
Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.