Darling takes 1-shot lead after opening round of Augusta National Women's Amateur

EVANS, Ga. (AP) — Hannah Darling of Scotland capped off a wild final nine holes with back-to-back birdies Wednesday for a 6-under 66, giving her a one-shot lead in the Augusta National Women's Amateur and one big step toward getting back to the home of the Masters.

Darling, a two-time Curtis Cup player, made only one par on the front nine at Champions Retreat, a course softened by overnight rain that led to a one-hour delay.

Ingrid Lindblad of Sweden, No. 1 in the world amateur ranking who came back for a fifth year at LSU for moments like this, had a chance to join Darling until missing a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.

Lindblad opened with 67 and was joined by Francesca Fiorellini of Italy and Eila Galitsky of Thailand, who hammered a fairway metal to 3 feet for eagle on her final hole. Galitsky is a former Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific winner.

Darling started her second nine with three straight birdies, including a 30-footer, followed with a pair of bogeys that slowed her momentum and bounced back with three birdies over the last four holes.

And to think her mission in the opening round was to play boring golf.

“I think the biggest thing for us is just staying in the moment and staying in the process,” Darling said. “I don’t like thinking about what’s happened before. I played some great golf, but I was still just thinking about what was to come next and staying very present, so I couldn’t even tell you how many greens I’ve hit.”

Lindblad is playing the Augusta National Women's Amateur for the fourth time. She tied for third in 2021 and was runner-up in 2022. Going up against Rose Zhang last year, Lindblad opened with a 78 and never recovered, missing the cut.

“Last year I felt a lot of pressure,” she said. “This year I was just trying to be here, be present. I usually play better when I think less, and I think I did that today.”

The second round Thursday is at Champions Retreat, and the top 30 and ties advance to the final round at Augusta National on Saturday.

Lottie Woad of England, the No. 3 player in the women's amateur ranking, was at 68.

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