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Park's par takes low score at qualifier

Staff photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith  Harmanprit Kaur hits a chip shot during  the 2013 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Qualifier at The Oaks Course on Wednesday.

Staff photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Harmanprit Kaur hits a chip shot during the 2013 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Qualifier at The Oaks Course on Wednesday.

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Staff photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith University of South Carolina golfer Chelsey Couch hits the green on her second shot at the 13th hole during the 2013 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Qualifier at The Oaks Course on Wednesday.

COVINGTON -- Esther Park learned that it pays to be steady as her even-par 71 earned her low-medalist honors in the 2013 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Qualifier at The Oaks Course on Wednesday.

When Park, of Doraville, posted her score, there were still seven players on the course giving her little hope in her mind that she would actually get the low score. However, getting low medalist was not an objective.

"I wasn't really concerned about being medalist. I was concerned about getting in the tournament and being one of the five and that I would make it," Park said. "I tried qualifying in previous years and didn't make it. So being able to make it and be medalist is pretty amazing."

Playing in her third public link qualifier, Park parred every hole on the front nine to finish with a 36. After birding the hardest hole of the day -- the 385-yard, par-four 12th hole -- to go 1-under par, Park gave the shot back with a bogey on the par-four 14th hole. She went on to par the final four holes for a 71.

Heading to the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla., from June 17-22, with Park are Chelsey Couch of Ware Shoals, S.C., Lacey Fears of Bonaire, Kennesaw State golfer Kaew Preamchuen and Mercedes Huarte, a Duluth resident who played college golf at Jacksonville State.

Fears, Huarte and Preamchuen each had a 73 with Couch shooting a 74.

Fears had two bogeys in the front nine while parring her way through the back nine for her score. Both Preamchuen and Huarte had a birdie and three bogeys while Couch had a birdie and four bogeys.

While the scores in general were higher than past years, the 6,179-yard course was not an easy play.

"The hole locations were really tough. There were a lot of short putts that were missed," said Kathy Heriford, U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Committee official in charge. "I felt a little badly about setting it up so difficult but they need to get used to it. The scores were not as low as they had been in the past but that really was what it came down to, the putting."

After leading the field following the front nine shooting a 2-under par 34, Lawrenceville's Harmanprit Kaur could not handle the pressure shooting a 6-over par 41 on the back nine. But she was able to redeem herself to become first alternate.

After driving her tee shot under a tree but with a clear shot to the green, Kaur used her wedge from 65 yards out, dropping the ball four feet from the hole. Her ball slowly worked its way to the hole, dropping in for an eagle.

"I was thinking I would get it on the top tier," Kaur said. "It was a shock, I didn't know it went in."

Both Kaur and Suwanee's Christina Yang finished the round with a 4-over par 75.

"The field is strong again, it really is," Heriford said. "I think the USGA put their stamp on our field by giving us five spots. That was pretty awesome, they saw the handicapping indexes and saw the potential of the players."