LUMBERTON — Hayley Hammond had never played a round at Pinecrest Country Club until her practice round for the North Carolina Women’s Amateur Championship on Monday.
It didn’t take her long to get her bearings, starting the round at 4-under after ten holes to post a tournament leading 70 after day one.
“I’ve been hitting the ball really well as of late and so I was really confident coming in and I like the way this course is set up,” Hammond said. “There’s not much to it. You just go out and it’s right in front of you so you’ve just got to execute the shots that you want and that’s what I did.”
Hammond, who is coming off of her senior year playing for Radford University in Virginia, finished seventh in last year’s tournament at Pinewood Country Club in Asheboro. This year, Hammond attributed being one of the first groups out as a key to the high finish.
“I love being first out, you don’t have to wait on people, you just get up, hit the ball and just keep on moving,” she said.
It was a quick round for Hammond and the lead group, with Mallory Hetzel carding a 72 for second place and Emily Stinson finishing with a 75, which tied her for sixth place.
With 12 other golfers within seven strokes, Hammond stressed a need to continue her good play in today’s second round.
“I want to be aggressive again like I was today. I was firing at pins and that was good,” Hammond said. “I just need to clean up a couple things. I hit a lot of greens on the front and I need to hit more on the back because chipping for me was a little off. But really just kind of doing the same thing, being confident with my putts.”
Stephanie Pribonic, a member of the North Carolina State women’s golf team, overcame a pair of bogeys in the last three holes to finish at 1-over and take third place.
“There were some rough patches coming in through the last three holes but other than that I’m happy with it,” Pribonic said. “Off the tee it’s a little bit challenging because of the narrow fairways, but I like the green speed and I liked the pin placements today.”
Pribonic says the her goal for today is to stay in contention and keep her game steady and consistent.
Two-time defending champion Courtney McKim scored a 78 and finished in 13th after the opening round. Trouble getting off of the tee hampered her play on the front nine.
“I need to be able to hit a driver off the tee. On the back nine, I took a three wood off almost every hole because I couldn’t stand over a ball and hit a driver,” McKim said.
Sitting eight strokes off of the leader isn’t an optimal position to be in but McKim isn’t panicking about the round yet.
“I’ve come behind every year to win,” McKim said. “This is the furthest behind I’ll have ever been, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ve got a lot of work to do.
“I’d like to repeat but we’ll see how it goes. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Purnell Swett golfer Meredith Godwin finished at the back of the championship pack in her first appearance in the tournament with an 14-over-par 86 after the first day’s play.
Pandora Carter, of Lumberton, carded an 87 in the Super Senior division putting her in a tie for 12th after the first day. Stephanie Miller also finished the first day with a 94, putting her in 15th place from the state tees.