As she walked up to the 18th green today at the LPGA’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout at Los Colinas Country Club, Cheyenne Knight glanced at the leader board and saw her name listed among nine other professionals with a one-under par score and just four strokes off the lead.
Knight, a former two-time high school state champion from Aledo and currently a freshman at the University of Alabama, is playing as an amateur in this week’s LPGA touring pro stop. She qualified last month at an area qualifier and is taking time off her college schedule to see how she fares with the best lady golfers in the world.
Playing “with nothing to lose,” Knight was aggressive on the greens as she fired three birdies and had just two bogeys to finish with a one-under par 70 in a round that began at 7:32 a.m.
Knight, who said her goal this week was to “make the cut” is in good position to do so with an under-par score. (At the time of this writing half of the field had yet to finish – see http://www.lpga.com/tournaments/volunteers-of-america-texas-shootout-presented-by-jtbc/leaderboard for first-round results).
The first of two cuts will take place after Friday’s second round where the Top 70 players and ties advance to the third round. Knight will have an afternoon tee time on Friday as she is scheduled to begin her second round at 12:27 p.m. on the 10th hole.
At this tournament there is also a second cut as the top 50 players after the third round (Saturday) advance to the final round on Sunday.
“Playing in an LPGA tournament was unbelievable,” Knight said. “It felt like a dream. It was surreal. I saw players like Natalie Gulbis and some other tour players when I was warming up on the range and on the putting green, and I have to admit I was kind of star-struck. It was really cool.”
If playing in her first LPGA tournament made her nervous, Knight didn’t show it. Her first drive on hole No. 1 was down the middle, and she landed her approach shot on the par four just 12 feet from the cup. She sank the left-breaking putt to earn a birdie on her first-ever LPGA hole.
“I wasn’t nervous yesterday (during a lengthy practice session) and I wasn’t nervous when I woke up this morning,” Knight said. “But when I was up on the first tee I was shaking a little bit. But I decided to just have fun and definitely birdying the first hole in my first LPGA event was a cool experience. Once I got that first hole out of the way I was just playing golf. I felt I played well today.”
After a bogey on No. 5, Knight birdied the par-three 6th after landing her drive three feet from the cup. She sank the short putt to get back into red numbers at one under.
Perhaps the most remarkable of Knight’s putts came on the par-four 12th. Laying two and with her ball on the first cut of rough just off the green and 40 feet from the cup on the right side, Knight aggressively rolled the putt in to go to two under.
“It was uphill and my caddie Derek (Brown) told me to hit it hard because it was up a hill, and it broke a little to the left,” Knight said. “I definitely hit it hard because it hit the back of the hole and it went right in.”
Knight flirted with birdies twice on her last six holes but missed by inches on both putts. She finished her round with five pars and one bogey for her 70.
“When I was on 18 I looked up and saw my name (on the leader board) … I am very blessed,” Knight said. “But I had nothing to lose so I was a little more aggressive with my putts than I usually am, and I feel I played pretty well overall. I gained a lot of confidence today, but I am definitely taking this as a learning experience and not putting a lot of pressure on myself. My goal is to make the (first) cut, but I put up a pretty good number today so I am just going to go out tomorrow and keep enjoying the experience.”