ST. ALBANS -- Claire Solovic looked on in awe.
The sophomore-to-be at Seckman High was very impressed with one of her playing partners in the opening round of the 42nd Girls Junior PGA Championship on Tuesday at The Country Club of St. Albans.
"It was crazy, just unbelievable," Solovic said.
Solovic fired a solid 6-over-par 78 during the first day of the four-day, 72-hole affair.
But Yealimi Noh, of Concord, California, was even better.
Noh, in the same group with Solovic, carded a 6-under-66 to move into a tie for second place along with with Lauren Beaudreau, of Lemont, Illinois, going into Wednesday's second round.
Hailee Cooper, who is bound for the University of Texas, posted a career-best score of 8-under 64. The Montgomery, Texas resident sits atop the leaderboard.
The prestigious tournament features the best junior golfers from 40 states and five countries. The field of 144 players will be pared down to the top 70 after 36 holes.
Solovic, who tied for medalist honors at the state high school meet in October, is hoping to be around for play Thursday and Friday.
She will need a better round on Wednesday to make the cut, but she remains in contention. The cut line should be somewhere near 3-over.
Solovic learned a lot from watching Noh during the four hour round.
"It's good that someone in your group is playing well and playing at a good pace," Solovic said. "You have to just play your game and not get too caught up in what the others are doing.
But, I couldn't help notice her."
Noh recorded seven birdies and a bogey.
"She'd hit one within three feet and then I'd feel like I had to and if I didn't, it was like it was bad shot -- even if it really wasn't," Solovic said.
Solovic played well on the front nine and sat at 1-over at the turn after an impressive birdie on the second hole. But she missed a few fairways and came up short on a couple putts during a difficult back nine.
"I feel my swing is still not 100 percent where I want it to be," Solovic said. "It was better last (summer). It's getting there, but there are still some things to work on."
GOULD ON TARGET
Shannon Gould, a senior-to-be at MICDS, led a seven-player area contingent with a 4-over 76.
She was 2-over at the break.
"My approaches were pretty good," Gould said. "I didn't leave myself with too many long putts."
LEADERS ON A ROLL
Cooper was ultra steady with eight birdies and no bogeys. She hit 17 greens in regulation.
"I was striking the ball really well and my putting stroke felt good," Cooper said.
Cooper's 64 ties the lowest 18-hole score in tournament history.
"I've been waiting for that good round," Cooper said. "I knew I had this in me. And I finally had that breakthrough round."
OTHER AREA PERFORMERS
Grace Aromando, an incoming sophomore at St. Joseph's, fired a 10-over 82. She was 1-over through the first nine after a pair of birdies.
But she recorded a triple bogey on the 15th.
"I just couldn't seem to find a par," Aromando said. "A few of my drives went left, which is sort of normal. Then my irons started going left, which never happens."
Aromando, like Gould and Solovic, say making the cut is a reasonable goal.
"I could've done better," Aromando said. "But, it wasn't one of my worst rounds either."
Madeline Larouere, from Liberty High, carded a 10-over 82. She was doomed by a triple bogey on the 17th hole.
This article is written by Steve Overbey from St. Louis Post-Dispatch and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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