Day 1 was warm, windy and wild at the Montana State Women’s Amateur and Senior Amateur golf championships.
That didn’t seem to bother Kyla Clancy.
The 20-year-old from Park City played her best Thursday afternoon on the back nine at Yellowstone Country Club when the weather conditions were at their absolute worst.
With the wind howling, swirling and gusting, Clancy shot a 1-under-par 35 on the back en route to a 3-over 75 to lead the 97th annual State Amateur by one stroke after the first round.
The Rocky Mountain College junior, who earned NAIA All-America accolades with the Battlin’ Bears last spring, birdied holes 12, 14 and 16 after playing the front nine in 4-over 40. She missed a 12-foot eagle putt by inches on the 460-yard, 16th hole.
“I think I got nervous on the front. I had 19 putts, which is not very good for me,” Clancy said. “I just calmed myself down because it got windy. I really focused in on hitting each shot. Instead of going ‘OK, next hole,’ I just went ‘next shot’ and kept going.”
Last year’s state runner-up, Dorsey Addicks of Big Sky, and one of Clancy’s Rocky teammates, Katy Peterson of Glendive, are sitting second in the amateur portion of the tournament at 76.
Cathie Williamson of Great Falls, who won the State Amateur in 2003 when it last visited YCC, is tied for fourth at 77, along with Morgan Lee, who is also from Great Falls.
Missoula’s Maggie Crippen, who won it all in 2011, is fifth at 78.
Lee had one of the shots of the day, chipping in for an eagle from 85 yards out on the par 4, No. 4 hole.
Lori Baker of Helena aced the 102-yard, No. 8 hole with an 8-iron. Her hole in one was witnessed by playing partners Megan Ryan and Emily Moran.
In the Senior Amateur tournament, which is for players 50 and over, former champion Susan Court of Helena is leading the way with an 8-over 80.
Sue Matson, a former three-time champion from Laurel, is four shots back at 84.
Two-time reigning champion Sue Peterson checked in with an 87. Fay Ferraro of Bozeman and Rosalie Meltzer of Missoula are tied for fourth at 88.
There are 53 amateurs and 84 seniors competing in the 54-hole tournaments.
Some tough pin locations, along with the hard, quick greens on the 5,604-yard YCC layout, offered plenty of challenges on what was a hot, calm morning.
Then the wind really came up in the early afternoon, sending tumbleweeds zipping across the greens, forcing golfers to back away from putt attempts and altering the flight of a variety of shots.
“On 12, I had to back off my putt three times,” Addicks said. “I’d get right into it, and then a big gust would kind of knock me off balance or my head wasn’t in the right spot because I was thinking about the wind.”
Williamson, who bogeyed her last five holes after playing the first 13 in even par, said she is used to playing in the wind in Great Falls.
“It was swirling for sure on the back, and when greens are very firm and fast, you really have to stay below the hole,” she said. “It was hard to pick a club and feel confident before you swing that you were going to hit a good shot.”
Clancy, who is playing in her seventh State Amateur, said having her 15-year-old brother, Liam, as her caddy also helped her play better on the back nine.
“Me and Liam started joking around a little bit more,” she said. “When I have fun and I’m golfing and I’m laughing, that’s usually when I play my best. I really just focused on getting on the green. I hit eight greens (in regulation) on the back.”
Clancy, who has a top 10 State Amateur finish to her credit, is shooting for her first championship.
“I figured as long as I can shoot 75 or under, I’ll definitely be in contention,” she said. “My goal is just to be in the final group on Saturday — and then let it run its course.”
Addicks, who will be a sophomore at Seattle University, lost by one stroke on the final hole at last year’s state tournament in Great Falls.
“The target is kind on my back because Amber (Lundskog, last year’s champion) is not here,” Addicks said. “People are expecting me to play well, but I haven’t put any pressure on myself to win.
“This tournament is all about experience and getting ready for the U.S. Amateur (next month in New York). At the end of the day, if I win, that’s why I came here, but if I don’t, it’s all about the learning experience that I’ve gained, along with confidence.”