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Amateur Ingrid Lindblad showing no signs of panic at US Women’s Open

Lindblad hits her shot off the tee on the 12th hole at Pine Needles Golf Club on Friday. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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.’”

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.

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

Reporter’s awkward exchange mars Caitlin Clark’s Fever intro

caitlin clark at indiana fever press conference on april 17
An uneasy interaction between Fever recruit Caitlin Clark and a local reporter has gone viral. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

An Indianapolis Star columnist is apologizing for an uneasy exchange with freshly minted Indiana Fever player Caitlin Clark on Wednesday.

At Clark's introductory press conference with the Fever, reporter Gregg Doyel introduced himself then abruptly formed a heart with his hands. Throughout her career with Iowa, Clark has often flashed heart hands at her family in the stands after finishing a game. The gesture has since become linked to the standout player.

But what ensued between Clark and Doyel was an incredibly awkward interaction, to say the least.

"Real quick, let me do this," Doyel said before making the heart sign at Clark. A composed Clark responded, "You like that?" After Doyel quipped, "I like that you're here," Clark dropped her eyes to the desk and said, "Yeah, I do that at my family after every game."

“OK, well start doing that to me and we’ll get along just fine,” Doyel said in response, to which Clark raised her eyebrows at the reporter, looking visibly uncomfortable. It wasn't the only unsettling comment Doyel made that day, as he later referred to Clark as "that" and "it" when directing a question to Fever coach Christie Sides. Sides appeared similarly thrown off by his choice of words.

As the clip made its way around social media, Doyel faced backlash from both sports fans and fellow members of the media. Much of the criticism centered around whether or not Doyel or another press representative would address an NBA player in the same manner. 

Doyel later apologized via a column entitled "Doyel: Caitlin Clark, I'm so sorry. On Wednesday I was part of the problem." published on the Indianapolis Star's website late Wednesday evening. Referring to his behavior at the earlier press conference, he called his comments "clumsy and awkward."

"Please know my heart (literally and figuratively) was well-intentioned. I will do better," he wrote, noting that he was "devastated to realize I’m part of the problem."

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

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