Aine Donegan Opens US Women's Open With 3-Under 69
Aine Donegan and her caddie, Gary Madden, walk up the par-4 third fairway during Monday's practice round. (Kathryn Riley/USGA)
BATON ROUGE – For the second straight year, an LSU golfer was one of the top stories Thursday in the United States Women’s Open.
With the 2023 Open scheduled at the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links with attention focused on the event more than ever, rising junior Aine Donegan blocked out the distractions of the moment and a broken driver to post a 3-under 69 in the opening round of the 72-hole event.
Donegan, from Ireland, was T2 at the end of the morning wave and by the end of first round finished T3, one shot out of the lead late Thursday night.
Last year in the women’s open, LSU’s Ingrid Lindblad posted a 6-under par 65 at Pine Needles in North Carolina in the opening round.
Donegan, who has so far this summer made match play in The Women’s Amateur in England and then was a leading point getter for Great Britain and Ireland in the Vagliano Trophy against Europe in Scotland last week, opened with two bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes, her first two holes of the day.
But then after settling in with three pars, the round really began to take shape as after a perfectly placed 271-yard drive on the par 4 15th hole she recorded an eagle from 96 yards out to get her round back to even par.
On the famous par 3 17th hole, Donegan hit her tee shot 184 yards to within three feet of the pin and knocked in the putt to go 1-under after eight holes.
After a bogey on the first, her 10th of the day, Donegan took advantage of her play off the tee with 18-foot birdie putts on the par 5 second and the par 4 third. She then made it three straight with an eight-foot putt for a third straight birdie that moved her to 3-under for the round through 13 holes.
On the par 5 sixth hole, her 15th of the round, Donegan’s second shot ended up in the intermediate rough some 50 feet from the hole. Her third to the green was 15 feet past the hole and she made the putt for her fifth birdie of the round to get to 4-under.
Despite the bogey on the final hole, Donegan was noteworthy on that ninth hole, hitting her drive 301 yards.
“It’s a bit surreal,” said Donegan in her post-round interview with NBC Sports. “Up and down. Didn’t start off great but brought it back … I had a bit of a rough start, but I just kept with it and then luckily things started to go in my favor on the back nine. I got more comfortable and yea, I finished pretty strong. So, I’m happy with it.”
She’s even happier since she didn’t have any clubs when she got to San Francisco after her appearance at the Vagliano Trophy.
“I flew from Scotland, Dublin, Newark and then Newark to San Francisco,” said Donegan. “So, I was traveling about 30 hours at least to then find that my clubs weren’t there. So, it was a bit annoying. I played the first practice round (Monday) with Lexi (Thompson) with clubs that didn’t belong to me. (The Ping representative) gave them to me and I was hitting the driver quite well. I said to my caddie ‘I might keep this driver’ and Lexi said, ‘I think that would be a good idea.’ So anyway, then the next day the clubs arrived and the driver was broken. So, I had no choice but to keep the driver.”
Donegan through the morning wave was T2 in strokes gained at 5.99, with 3.41 of that coming around the green. Donegan hit 12-of-14 fairways, 12-of-18 greens in regulations and had the only eagle of the morning wave in the field of 156 players.
In the NBC interview, they showed on the beach off the ninth green where someone had drawn in the sand “Go Donegan.”
There’s a lot of Irish people in this area in the United States,” she said. “I know a lot of Irish people in San Francisco and even a lot of people my age are over there now just for the summer working for the summer and I don’t know who wrote that. I have to find out. That’s so funny.”
Donegan will tee off in the afternoon wave on Friday at 3:18 p.m. CT off the first hole. Peacock will stream coverage of the tournament from 3-5 p.m. with USA Network taking over coverage from 5-10 p.m. CT.