Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mccullough Opens Lead in `Light and Lively' Tournament

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mccullough Opens Lead in `Light and Lively' Tournament

Article excerpt

One gets accustomed to relating golf with dour faces, such as Fred Couples or Nick Faldo. So the first day of qualifying for the 56th Missouri Women's Golf Association Amateur Championship was a refreshing reprieve.

The temperature was hot, the intensity was thick and the caliber of play was high Tuesday. But the atmosphere was light and lively around the lush fairways and soft greens of Greenbriar Hills Country Club.

For every scintillating save or maddening miss, there was a dose of encouragement and good-natured ribbing among the 120 combatants.

"It has to be fun," said Amy Smethers, a University of Missouri product. "If it's not fun, than it's not worth playing."

The stakes are serious enough. A $100 entry fee and a prestigious state title is no laughing matter. But unlike their male counterparts, most of the women appreciate the camaraderie, as well as the competition.

No one enjoyed the ambience more than Jennifer McCullough. A senior at the University of Iowa, McCullough was all smiles after firing a pace-setting, 1-over-par 73 on the finicky 68-year-old track.

"I love the course," McCullough said. "You have to think out there. You can't afford to miss, especially around the greens."

The notion of protecting her advantage through the medal round Thursday brought additional cheer.

"If I could win, I'd be ecstatic," said McCullough, 21, who is from Nevada, Mo. "It's funny, because I was talking to my coach (Diane Thomason) before I came and she was looking at the tournament and said, `You know, you could win that.'

"That would be just great. It's been so long, it would be nice to be reminded what it's like to win a tournament before next college season starts."

McCullough has had top-20 finishes at Iowa, but must get out the high school scrapbook to relive her last bell-ringer.

"I've always had a hard time finishing tournaments," said McCullough, who had a relatively hard time finishing her round, bogeying Nos. 17 and 18. "It's something I need to work on. That's what the rest of his tournament will be about for me. …

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