Bunque, Yip keep their cool

Stephanie Bunque
Stephanie Bunque tees off in Tennessee today.

Stephanie Bunque has powered through a dramatic threat to keep her US Women’s Amateur dream alive.

Bunque, of Melbourne, and youngster Sophie Yip, of Sydney, each were in handy positions after the first of two stroke play qualifying rounds at the Golf Club of Tennessee.

They will resume overnight with Bunque in a share of 48th at even par and Yip in a tie for 61st at one over with the top 64 advancing to the knockout match play phase starting the following day.

But the two-pronged attack so nearly became one before a ball was even hit with Bunque, having been in the form of her life in the past eight months, unable to walk on Saturday because of peroneal tendonitis.

“I was on crutches and was sort of fearing the worst,” Bunque said after her round of 71 in steamy conditions.

“But this has been my focus for a long time now and I wasn’t going to let it stop me.”

Bunque walked – “I almost crawled” – the back nine of the championship course on Sunday afternoon to familiarise herself with the Kingston Springs layout.

“But I didn’t even get to see the front nine, so it made things a little tough today,” she said with trademark grin.

True to form, Bunque fired a couple of early birdies after starting on the 10th and was still one under when she came to the par-four third hole where she pulled a drive, thought the ball lost and played a provisional with the blessing of a walking rules official.

Unbeknown to the Victorian, who hadn’t seen that side of the course, was that there was a water hazard left and the official, along with two other rules gurus, determined she should abandon the provisional and take a penalty drop near the hazard line.

The upshot was a double-bogey, from which she bounced back with a late birdie to card a fine 71, five shots behind American leader Alexa Pano.

“I didn’t really know what was happening and I got a bit flustered for a few minutes because there were so many people on the hole sort of waiting on me for a ruling,” Bunque said.

“But it was all good and I’m happy with the way I finished.

“Just hope my foot’s feeling better again tomorrow and I’ll go out and have a crack at getting into the match play.”

Yip, who recently turned 14, also began on the 10th tee and got away slowly with bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes.

But in her first big USGA event, the Concord member bounced back with a birdie on the 14th and another on the 16th to turn in even par.

When she rolled a birdie putt in on the 7th (her 16th hole) the diminutive NSW state team representative briefly found herself in red figures before back-to-back bogeys closed her round.

“I was just a little unlucky at the end,” Yip said.

“I still think I did pretty good, though.”

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