Amy Olson talks about her first round and her trip to Africa. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Entering the 2018 season, Amy Olson was ranked outside the top 200 in the world, hadn’t won a professional tournament and had recorded only one top-10 finish since turning pro in 2014.
But for one week in late March at the ANA Inspiration — the first major of the season on the LPGA Tour — it all started coming together for the native of Oxbow, North Dakota.
She carded three straight rounds in the 60s and found herself Sunday afternoon in the final group with Pernilla Linberg.
Olson shot par-72 in the final round to finish in a tie for seventh. She didn’t come away with the victory, but she did gain valuable experience. It was experience she used Thursday during the first round of the Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club.
Olson shot 6-under 66, a late bogey on No. 17 dropping her out of the sole first-round lead as she shared the top spot with Danielle Kang, Moriya Jutanugarn and Caroline Masson.
"I think it was a great experience,” Olson said of her play in the first major. “The main thing I really took away from that is you can’t force anything in golf. I think so often, even when you’re watching golf on TV, they show all of the great shots so you feel like you have to make those happen when you’re in that final group, and you don’t. You just have to keep playing the golf that you were.
“There’s holes where you’re still aiming for the middle of the greens, you have to take some pars, and if a birdie falls in, great. So don’t press, and sometimes you have to learn that for yourself.”
Olson made seven birdies on Thursday as she took advantage of perfect conditions in the morning. Four of those birdies came on the front nine but her late bogey left her with plenty to work on in between rounds.
“It’s a lot of fun obviously to make some birdies out there and be in this position,” she said. “Made a bogey coming in and honestly I didn’t feel quite comfortable with my swing out there. I hit a lot of great shots, but definitely going to go work on a couple things.”
If she gets it all worked out and manages to find a way to record her first win this week, it would also put her in next week’s U.S. Open.
“Yeah, if that happens, great,” Olson said. “If it doesn’t, it’s an off week with my husband, so I’ll make the best of it either way.”
Making birdies became contagious for one group on Thursday.
Jutanugarn, Masson and Emma Talley teed off No. 10 at 8:21 a.m. and proceeded to shoot a combined score of 15-under. Jutanugarn and Masson are tied for the lead at 6-under while Talley sits at 3-under, saving par on No. 9 after hitting her approach shot under the grandstand.
Jutanugarn and Masson had six birdies each while Masson added an eagle. Talley had five birdies for the round.
“I mean, they’re both playing really strong and I finished strong on the back nine,” Jutanugarn said. “And of course like Carolyn is one of the really good players. Is really fun to like see people make putts and then you kind of get in a good mood. Like, you know, everybody’s just really nice to each other as well, so we very enjoy today.”
John Niyo and Matt Charboneau preview the LPGA and PGA Champions events, which wrap up in Michigan today. The Detroit News
It was a tough day for Ashley Kim, the University of Michigan golfer who earned one of three sponsor’s exemptions into the tournament. The native of Redondo Beach, California, shot seven-over 79, recording two double-bogeys without carding a single par.
Kim just completed her freshman season with the Wolverines in which she tied for the second-lowest round in program history with a 66 (-6) fired in the second round of the Ruth’s Chris Invitational in October. She joined her sister, Megan, as the only two Wolverines to card a 66 in a U-M event
… Some notable names that have some work to do in the second round include Nelly Korda, who shot 6-over 78, and Paula Creamer, who carded a 2-over 74. Defending champion Shanshan Feng shot a 2-over 74, as did Jennifer Song, who was born in Ann Arbor.