FORT LAUDERDALE — Defending champion Alexa Pano picked up where she left off two years ago, shooting a bogey-free 5-under-par 67 Monday to lead all qualifiers on the opening day of the 89th Ione D. Jones/Doherty Women’s Amateur Championship at Coral Ridge Country Club.
A three-time winner of the Amateur division, Pano, 17, of Lake Worth, won the tournament in 2020, 2019 and 2017. The event was not held last year because of COVID-19.
Pano was in a threesome with Elle Nachmann, 18, of Boca Raton, who shot a 68 with six birdies and two bogeys to grab the No. 2 seed in the 16-player field, and Staci Pla, 15, of West Palm Beach, who shot 80 to qualify as the eighth seed playing in the tournament for the first time.
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Kayla Holden of Coral Springs was the third seed with a 69. Canice Screene of the United Kingdom was next at 74 followed by Lea Zeitler of Iowa City, Iowa, at 75, Noelle Maertz of Clark, N.J., who shot 77, and Brooke Oberparleiter of Jupiter at 78.
Match play begins Tuesday and continues through Friday. Pano plays Evelyn Blackmon of Nashville, Tenn. Two-time champion Meghan Stasi of Oakland Park, who won in 2018 and 2012, is the 11th seed after an 81. She plays the sixth-seeded Maertz Tuesday.
In the Senior division for players 50 and older, Terrill Samuel of Boynton Beach is the top seed with a 1-under 71. Susie Keane of Orlando is No. 2 with a 72, followed by Kim Keyer-Scott of Estero at 73. Shelly Haywood of Huntington Beach, Calif., (fourth seed) and Theresa Quinn of Jacksonville (fifth) both shot 74. Martha Leach of Hebron, Ky. (sixth) and Corey Weworski of Carlsbad, Calif., (seventh) both shot 75.
Pano, who takes online high school classes at home, first played in the Doherty when she was 9. This will be her last time playing here. Her father, Rick, said she has qualified to play the Symetra Tour, which is the LPGA’s developmental tour. She’ll play the tour when it begins, compete in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at the end of March, then return to the Symetra Tour.
Her return to the classic Robert Trent Jones course, which was renovated in 2020 by his son Rees, was as smooth as the slick greens that were restored to their original size when Coral Ridge opened in 1954.
“The greens are rolling really well,” said Pano, who converted several lengthy birdie putts. “I’m happy with everything. Hopefully fix my driver up a little bit and my irons a little bit and then we’ll be good.”
A sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, Nachmann hadn’t played in an individual tournament since the U.S. Women’s Amateur in August. She and Amelia Williams won the Florida State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship in August, she and Kendall Griffin finished as the first alternate team in a September qualifier for the USGA Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and she and her brother Alec combined to win the FSGA Mixed Shootout Championship in October for the second consecutive year.
“The first hole there was a little bit of rust,” said Nachmann of failing to get up and down for par, “but then I got back to it. I’ve been practicing since I’m down here. I’m just happy to be able to play out here. In Philly, the weather isn’t great. They have moved the first two weeks (of the spring semester) online, that’s why I can play. We don’t have to go back until the 24th.”
The long-hitting Nachmann, who was able to hit irons into greens that she used to hit woods into when she started playing the Doherty eight years ago, said she was able to spin the ball and hold the firm greens. She saved her best shot for last, chipping in for birdie on the 18th hole after missing the green to the right.
Pla, who takes ninth-grade online classes, had a tough introduction to the course, making double bogey on the first hole. But she quickly settled down and played well aside from some errant approach shots that found some of Coral Ridge’s other reshaped bunkers.
“It’s a great course, it’s tough, so you’ve got to hit your spots and if not, it’s not good,” said Pla, whose mother, Sherri, is a teaching pro at Wellington National Golf Club, where she runs the PLA Golf Academy. “I could’ve played better. But tomorrow, no bunkers and I’ll miss in the right places.”