Five amateurs to watch at the Women’s Open

The U.S. Women’s Open, which gets underway Thursday, has 29 amateurs in the field.

At the 2009 Open, Jennifer Song was the low amateur, tying for 13th at Saucon Valley Country Club. But she wasn’t the only player to shine. Jessica Korda finished T-26 and shot a final-round 69. Here are five amateurs to follow at this year’s Open, and perhaps names you might see atop leaderboard come Sunday.

1.) Jessica Korda. At only 17 years old, Korda may be one of the top 20 players in the entire field. Earlier this summer Korda helped lead Team USA to a victory at the Curtis Cup at Essex County Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. This will now be her third U.S. Women’s Open appearance. She tied for 26th last year with Lorena Ochoa, Inbee Park, Anna Nordqvist and Juli Inkster. Korda may be young in age, but she has the game of a seasoned veteran. I’m not telling you Korda is going to win this week, but I don’t think a top-15 finish is out of the question.

2.) Stephanie Kono. The soon-to-be junior at UCLA has enjoyed her time while playing in USGA events. In the summer of 2008 Kono reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Last summer, Kono reached the quarterfinals of the Women’s Amateur and was medalist at the WAPL. Kono was Curtis Cup teammates last month with Korda and ended the collegiate golf season No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. At this year’s Open she is the highest-ranked college player playing in the field. Kono is best known for straight drives and an incredible short game, which I believe is a good formula to have at USGA events like an Open Championship.

3.) Brittany Altomare. She failed to make the cut last year, but was still able to get a taste of what it takes to play in a major. Altomare, a rising sophomore at Virginia, had an impressive 73.20 stroke average for the 2009-10 season. She is another up-and-comer under the age of 20, and is continuously getting better as she gets older. After playing in last year’s Open, Altomare should know what to expect and know how to better prepare herself for this year.

4.) Danielle Kang. Kang is a proven winner. She was the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur medalist at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis. A late arrival to the college season a year ago, Kang played the spring semester for Pepperdine and had an immediate impact. She finished in the top 20 in five of six tournaments, winning once and finishing in the top 10 three times. She closed out her freshman semester with a sixth-place showing at the NCAA East Regional and tied for 15th at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Kang is the type of player that challenges herself on the golf course. When she needs to make things happen, she’s one of the few amateurs in the field that has the confidence to know she can pull it off.

5.) Lizette Salas. Salas always looks like she has something to prove or has a chip on her shoulder. The USC All-American will now be the amateur Trojan to watch in the field, as Jennifer Song has turned pro. During her sophomore year at USC, Salas was ranked No. 1 in the country for most of the year. Salas, who will be senior in the fall, is one of the most mature players in the field and will be a favorite to make the cut. The Open will be a good test for Salas, who will turn pro when she graduates from USC. We know she can beat most of the amateurs, but can she play with the pros?

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