Yin leads U.S. Girls’ Junior after first round

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Angel Yin is off to a considerably better start at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship than she was a week ago. Yin, one of 14 players to play this championship a week after the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, just had to give herself a new mantra: Bogeys are better than double bogeys.

For a 15-year-old who can hit the ball 275 yards at sea level – and 300 yards this week at Forest Highlands, which sits about 6,000 feet above sea level – it’s understandable that there would be a tendency to play aggressively.

“During tournaments, my shots average 10 yards longer,” said Yin, who hails from Arcadia, Calif.

Yin, who fell in the second round of match play at the Public Links after opening 74-67, opened with 6-under 66 Monday to take a three-shot lead in stroke-play qualifying. Megan Khang, Mariel Galdiano and Jennifer Kupcho each put up 3-under 69. After the round, Yin reported that the day didn’t even feel that spectacular.

“I wasn’t putting that well, I was putting OK,” she said. “I just hit everything a lot closer.”

Yin, “tired but excited” from the quick WAPL turnaround, began her round on Forest Highlands’ back nine, and took a while to get warmed up – literally – on a cool desert morning. Yin bogeyed No. 11, then birdied Nos. 14 and 15. She bogeyed No. 17 but played her final 10 holes in 6 under.

For Yin, a quiet player, it was a quiet day on the course. She was one of a handful of players in the field assigned a local caddie – not from the caddie shack, but from the Northern Arizona football team.

“He actually doesn’t know much about golf, but he’s pretty cool,” Yin said after the round.

In such a situation, intimidation goes out the window thanks to Yin’s length. She was shocking crowds in 2012 when, as a 13-year-old, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run. Yin powered around that course, but still missed the cut. She qualified for the Women’s Open again the next year, at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., but missed the cut again. Yin has also played in the Kraft Nabisco Championship each of the past two years, and most recently, opened that tournament with a head-turning 4-under 68.

“When I’m under pressure, I really hate thinking,” Yin explained. “… Here, I don’t feel as stressed out maybe because of the WAPL and the experience I had to go through.”

In a field full of peers, Yin has the upper hand.

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