By Nick Hunter
MAPLE GROVE, Minn. – Opening the 2022 Minnesota Women’s State Open presented by Yamaha Golf and Utility with a bogey-free 4-under 68 Tuesday at Rush Creek Golf Club, defending champion Betsy Kelly jumped out to the biggest first-round lead since Kenzie Neisen fired a tournament-record 63 to lead by five in 2017.
Entering Wednesday’s final round with a four-stroke lead over fellow professional Marie Allo, Kelly now has the opportunity to claim a second consecutive title—something no golfer has been able to accomplish in the 21-year history of the championship.
“I played really solid today—two birdies a side and no bogeys,” said the 30-year-old Kelly. “I got off the tee well and put myself in good positions. I had wedges in all day, and I’ve been working pretty hard on my wedges lately.
“Having a little cushion feels a little bit better. Someone asked me if I’d rather have the lead or come from behind and I’ll take a four-shot lead all day.”
Led by her short irons Tuesday, Kelly started the scoring by wedging her approach at the first inside of six feet, where she converted her birdie chance to quickly move into red figures.
After converting her birdie opportunity from inside of three feet at the fifth, Kelly turned in 2-under despite missing a 2-footer for birdie at the ninth.
She rolled in a pair of 6-footers for birdie at the 13th and 17th to turn in a clean, stress-free 68 to take the 18-hole lead.
“All of my birdie putts were in close—I didn’t make any bombs. I saved a couple of pars, but it was a solid, fun day.” Kelly said. “Today I didn’t have any bogeys, but they’re going to happen. I just need to keep hitting my driver and wedges well.”
Kelly’s win last season at Minnesota Valley Country Club marked the first time a professional claimed the championship since Lisa Grimes’ win in 2014 at Town and Country Club.
She fired an even par 73 to begin the Women’s State Open tied with Kathryn VanArragon and Isabella McCauley heading into the final round before shooting a 2-over 75 to claim a one-stroke victory over VanArragon.
Working in finance for nearly a decade, Kelly will try her hand at LPGA Qualifying School once again later this week in Palm Springs, Calif.
“If you play well at Q-School—it sets up your whole year,” said Kelly, who will travel to southern California on Friday. “I need to play well there so I can play a full schedule next year.”
Kelly earned a sponsor’s exemption into the Epson Tour’s Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic in March, shooting an opening-round 71 before a 77 during the second round to miss the cut in her first Epson Tour start since 2017.
“I played well the first day and then on the back nine of my second round I blew up because I started thinking about it, which is a rookie mistake,” she said. “If I would’ve made the cut, I would’ve gotten into the rest of the events because it was right before the reshuffle.
“I feel good, and I’ve been working really hard on my game.”
Allo, an assistant professional at Bunker Hills Golf Club, began her opening round on the 10th tee Tuesday, carding three birdies against one bogey to turn in 2-under for the round.
A 26-year-old native of Connecticut, Allo fell back to even with a double-bogey at the fourth, followed by a bogey at the fifth. She bounced back by sinking her birdie chance from six feet at the sixth.
A bogey at the eighth put Allo back to 1-over for the round, but she finished strong by sticking her approach from 150 yards to inside of a foot to post an even par 72.
“Today I came in with no expectations and played really well,” Allo said Tuesday. “The front nine was the most fairways and greens I’ve ever hit—that’s not normally what happens. The back was a little narrower and a little more of a struggle.
“The last round I played was a couple weeks ago, so practicing or playing has been non-existent recently. My putting was good today, surprisingly. Getting off the tee and ball-striking was working okay for me.”
University of Minnesota golfer Emma Carpenter carded a 1-over 73 Tuesday to earn a share of third place with University of St. Thomas freshman Emma Davies. The two will begin the final round five shots off the lead.
The 22nd Minnesota Women’s State Open concludes Wednesday with final-round tee times beginning at 7 a.m. at Rush Creek Golf Club.
Professional Angie Ause (Oak Marsh GC) posted an opening-round 75 Tuesday and currently sits tied for 12th with Legends Club professional Alexandra Schilling.
Savannah Smith (Crosswoods GC) finished her opening round tied for 34th following her 7-over 79, while Minnesota PGA’s Catherine Wagner and Haley Tollette (Rum River Hills GC) are tied for 38th.
THE 22ND MINNESOTA WOMEN’S STATE OPEN
RUSH CREEK GOLF CLUB
MAPLE GROVE, MINN.
6,095 YARDS, PAR 72
TUESDAY’S FIRST ROUND RESULTS
1. Betsy Kelly (p), TPC Twin Cities, 34-34—68
2. Marie Allo (p), Bunker Hills GC, 38-34—72
T3. Emma Davies, Olympic Hills GC, 37-36—73
T3. Emma Carpenter, University GC, 37-36—73
T5. Jovie Ordal, Willinger’s GC, 35-39—74
T5. Catherine Monty, White Bear YC, 37-37—74
T5. Karen Weiss (p), Midland Hills- CC, 37-37—74
T5. Leah Skaar, Minnewaska GC, 37-37—74
T5. Reese McCauley, Southview CC, 38-36—74
T5. Kathryn VanArragon, Bunker Hills GC, 37-37—74
T5. Claudia Kim, Royal Golf Club, 38-36—74
For complete tournament results go to: https://mnpga.bluegolf.com/