Cayla Smith of Easley, South Carolina hits her approach shot in the second playoff hole of the U.S. Women’s Public Links qualifier at the Oaks Course on Tuesday. Smith parred the hole but lost the No. 1 alternate spot to Paraguay’s Diana Fernandez on the third playoff hole. (Staff photo: Manny Fils)
COVINGTON — Kennesaw State’s Kaew Preamchuen dominated the competition and the golf course shooting a four-under par 67 in the final Women’s Public Links Qualifying round at the Oaks Course on Tuesday.
Preamchuen is familiar with the course having qualified last year as well as caddying for her sister, Ket Preamchuen, who is currently on the Symetra Tour.
The Owls rising senior started the round with a birdie on the third hold before giving it back shooting a double-par on the next hole to go one-over par. After bringing her round back to even on the eighth, she went sub par with a birdie on the par-5 ninth. She continued her winning ways on the back nine with birdies on holes 12, 15 and 16.
After having been an alternate for the last two years, Christina Yang is finally heading to the public link tournament as a qualifying player. The North Gwinnett sophomore had the top spot with a two-over par 73 as the first five groups finished their round.
Yang held the lead until the next to the last group came through when Ines Leschudier, a Kennesaw State player from France, shot an even par 71.
While the 14-player field battled for three qualifying spots, as in the last two years, the true battle came in the fight for the two alternate spots.
With Cayla Smith, Easley, South Carolina, and Paraguay’s Diana Fernandez, who recently graduated from Auburn, finishing their rounds with a three-over par 74, it took three extra holes before the No. 1 alternate could be named.
After both players shot par on the first hole, Smith hit her second shot on the second playoff hole withing seven feet of the hole. But a weak putt gave Fernandez the chance she needed as they headed to the third playoff hole.
Smith hit her tee shot to the left side of the fairway where a tree limb knocked down her approach shot on the par-four hole. Fernandez on the other hand was able to put the ball eight feet from the hole where she two putted for the No. 1 alternate spot.
The 2014 Women’s Public Links Championship, which will be held at The Home Course in DuPont, Washington from July 14-19, will be the end of the USGA sponsored event with the Oaks Course having held the qualifying round since 1998
Kathy Heriford, who is on the USGA Women’s Amateur Public Links committee, played her first qualifying round in 1983. She has been with the USGA for more than 20 years working with the championship. For Heriford, it really is an end of era.
Several players that qualified at the Oaks Course have went on to play at professional level including Brittany Lincicome, who has the lowest tournament score at the Oaks Course, men or women, with a 65. Also playing professionally include Brooke Pancake who is on the LPGA and Emilie Burger who is on the Symetra Tour.
“It’s sad, really sad and some of the girls are sad about it too in not being able to have this in the future,” Heriford said. “We’ve had quite a few girls turn pro. Katie Burnett, from South Carolina, turned pro and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open. Quite a few have moved on to the mini tour. This has been a pretty good starting ground.”