Amy Olson was one of the most decorated collegiate golfers of all time, but she’s yet to find the winner’s circle as a professional.
However, after an opening-round 6-under-par 66 at the LPGA Volvik Championship, Olson is on track to break that winless draught.
Olson, 25, made just one bogey on Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan and seven birdies – including four on her front nine – to tie for the lead with Caroline Masson, Danielle Kang, and Moriya Jutanugarn, who just broke through for her first LPGA Tour win last month.
The 66 was tied for her best round of the year, and the second-best opening round she’s had in her LPGA Tour career.
“It's a lot of fun obviously to make some birdies out there and be in this position,” she said, although she admitted she didn’t feel totally comfortable with her swing on Thursday. She retreated to the driving range for a practice session Thursday afternoon before getting ready for the second round on Friday.
Perhaps odd to hear that the first-round leader wasn’t feeling as though her swing was quite right, but she managed to cobble together a fine opener. She said she was trying to keep things simple on Thursday – focusing mostly on her start line and targets – but wasn’t comfortable over the ball. Her putting, she said, saved her.
Two years ago Olson began working with coach Ron Stockton, who followed her for most of her round Thursday, and she said she loved having him out there.
“Whether I play great or if I make mistakes, he can see those and then we can go fix them. So maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there. I'm like ‘great,’ if he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it, so I like having his eyes on me,” she said.
Olson admitted it’s taken a while for the changes she began to implement with Stockton to take hold.
“That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year, and it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free,” she explained.
Olson, whose husband is the linebackers’ coach at Indiana State University, said getting married (they tied the knot last June) has helped her to put things outside of golf into perspective.
Olson isn’t yet in the field for the U.S. Women’s Open, and admits she would love to play if she earned a spot. But if she doesn’t make it, she’ll enjoy an off-week with her husband, which, she said, wouldn’t be such a bad alternative.
“You hear that when people get married, when people have kids, they're just -- there's so much more to life than golf,” she said. “Any of those big steps I think really help you see that.”
The North Dakota native also said returning to the Midwestern United States made her feel comfortable on Thursday. Not just the fans (“Their energy is contagious,” she said), but she said the style of golf demanded at Travis Pointe is something she enjoys.
“Anytime I get to play on bent greens and have tree-lined fairways, I love that,” she said. “I love the style of golf and just happy to be in Michigan.”
Moving through the next three rounds, with Olson having a chance to earn her first LPGA Tour win, she said she would lean on the experience she gained being in the final group at the ANA Inspiration. She said the main thing she learned was not to try to force anything.
“I think so often, even when you're watching golf on TV, they show all of the great shots so you feel like you have to make those happen when you're in that final group, and you don't. You just have to keep playing the golf that you were,” she said. “There (are) holes where you're still aiming for the middle of the greens, you have to take some pars, and if a birdie falls in, great. So don't press, and sometimes you have to learn that for yourself.”
Olson tees off Friday with Angela Stanford and Ayako Uehara.