Alabama’s Gillman in top 10 after day one of U.S. Open

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – The LPGA Tour sees stars emerge at a young age, which can create breakout opportunities at any given moment, and on Thursday, May 31, University of Alabama sophomore Kristen Gillman showed that possibility during the first round of one of the biggest tournaments of the year.

The 20-year-old college student went out and fired an opening-round of 2-under par (70) to jump into the top 10 (T7) after day one and is one of three amateurs in the top 20.

“It’s definitely cool seeing your name on the leaderboard,” Gillman said. “I feel like it was kind of crazy because I definitely didn’t have my ball striking out there. Luckily, my short game was able to save it. There’s still a lot of golf left, so you can’t get too far ahead of yourself.”

Still playing as an amateur, it marked the second appearance in the U.S. Open for Gillman after competing in the event in 2015, which helped with the nerves.

“I was nervous, but I was not as nervous as I thought I would be,” she said. “I don’t know why. But I think it’s like what Emma (Talley) was saying, I played here a couple of times so I feel like I know the golf course so well. If I put the ball where I wanted to, I knew I would be fine.”

Talley, who graduated from the University of Alabama and qualified for the event, helped create for a fun and comfortable group for the two players.

“She played awesome,” Talley said of Gillman. I’m really excited for her and excited to get her out here (On tour) soon. Alabama has done great things and we have a lot great players. It was fun playing with her and she beat my butt today. So hopefully I can get her tomorrow.”

Talley went on to finish her first round at 2-over par after shooting a 74.

“It was definitely nice playing with someone you know,” Gillman said. “I feel that is another reason that can calm down the nerves. We had a lot of fun today, so it was nice.”

The USGA also decided to have fun with the state they were in, as the current Alabama golfer and former graduate played with former Auburn University golfer Cydney Clanton.

Clanton went on to finish her opening round at 3-over after shooting a 75.

“I actually heard more War Eagles than I did Roll Tide, so that was fun,” Clanton said. “It’s great to be here, great to be in Birmingham.”

Clanton added that she has to be patient and wait for good things to happen on the course as well.

Gillman, on the other hand, will look to continue her strong playing in round two as she hopes to not just make the cut as an amateur but compete on the weekend. She said competing at Alabama is something that will help prepare her for the moment.

“Every tournament we play in, we always have the strongest field,” Gillman said. “We even have a few really good players on our team, and so we are always competing. I feel like that’s pushing us to all to become better players.”

Right now, Gillman goes into the second round trailing leaders by three shots after Ariya Jutanugarn, Sarah Smith and Jeongeun6 Lee all three shot 5-under par in the first round.