SOUTHERN PINES — As an amateur playing in the U.S. Women’s Open, Ingrid Lindblad was already a little starstruck when she arrived at Pine Needles this week.
Then she saw the pairings for the tournament’s first two rounds.
The young Swedish amateur, who recently won the SEC championship while playing for LSU, found herself playing in the same group as women’s golf icon and fellow Swede Annika Sorenstam.
It was almost too much for the youngster to believe.
“When I saw that I’m playing with her, I was like in shock, I was like, ‘This cannot be true,’” Lindblad said. “Then on the first tee box I get her scorecard. I’m like, I have Annika’s scorecard in my hands. But it was really cool.”
Instead of being intimidated by the situation, Lindblad seemed to find playing beside her idol having a calming effect on her.
Starting on No. 9, the 22-year-old birdied her first hole. Then after playing the back nine in 1-under, she caught fire and birdied four of her final eight holes to finish with a 6-under 65.
While she wasn’t able to hold onto the overnight lead when American Mina Harigae carded a 64 late in the afternoon, Lindblad’s score was still the lowest ever posted by an amateur in the 77-year history of the Women’s Open.
It was a performance, which required only 26 puttts, that impressed even a Hall of Famer.
“She’s really impressive,” Sorenstam said. “I think people see her as a long hitter, but I’m sure you saw her today, some of those chip shots she hit, especially here on 18. That was not an easy one. She just kind of stood there and had really good touch and she putted beautifully today.”
Sorenstam has won three Women’s Opens, including the first of four to be held at Pine Needles in 1996. She retired from the sport in 2008 to start a family, but at the age of 51, she has returned to the course on a limited basis at the urging of her two children.
She shot a 3-over 74 on Thursday.
She qualified to play this week by winning last year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open and said she hopes her participation will serve as inspiration for up-and-coming young players.
Players such as Lindblad, who first met Sorenstam when she won the Annika Invitational in 2019.
“I spent quite some time with Ingrid at the 2019 Annika Invitational up in St. Augustine (Florida),” Sorenstam said. “She won, but she was flying out of Orlando and she didn’t have a ride. I said you can ride with me, so I took her to the airport and we had a good conversation. Just listening to her, she can be quite bubbly, so it was more listening than talking.”
Lindblad has let her game do most of her talking for her lately.
“I played really good at SECs and then at nationals, I didn’t really get anything to drop,” she said. “I hit it good, but I didn’t make any putts. I feel like that was the difference from one or two weeks ago to today. I just had fun out there.”
Part of that fun included frequent fist-bumps with Sorenstam after birdies. The question now is how she will handle the pressure of being near the top of the leaderboard as the tournament goes on.
Only one amateur, Catherine Lacoste in 1967, has ever won the Women’s Open.
Even though there’s $1.8 million worth of incentive to the winner, Lindblad said she doesn’t regret her decision to keep her amateur status rather than turning pro before the tournament started.
“I’m going to stay in college for like another year or so,” she said. “Yeah, it would have been fun to win a little bit of money, but I think I’m going to stay in college for a little bit more.”