By Ian Thompson
Special to Tidesports

SHOAL CREEK – University of Alabama sophomore Kristen Gillman acquitted herself extremely well in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek on Thursday with an opening round 2-under-par 70, which puts her in a tie for eighth.

“It was very cool to see my name on the leaderboard,” the Austin, Texas native said. “But there is a lot of golf to be played and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.”

She eclipsed playing partners, former University of Alabama standout Emma Talley and former Auburn golfer Cydney Clanton, who shot 74 and 75, respectively.

Ariya Jutanugarn, Sarah Jane Smith and Jeongeun6 Lee are tied for the championship lead after each shot 5-under-par 67.

Starting her round on hole No. 10, Gillman made two birdies, on Nos. 13 and 6, and 16 pars in her bogey-free round.

“My round was kind of crazy. I didn’t have my best game, but my short game kind of saved me. I had a few other opportunities for birdie, but felt composed all day and am pleased with my score.”

She credited the UA golf program for helping her feel prepared.

“We play in the strongest fields against the best teams.”

Gillman is fresh off helping UA to a runner-up finish in the NCAA national championship, where she was unbeaten in match play, and was named first-team All-American along with teammates Lauren Stephenson and Cheyenne Knight.

She will represent the United States this summer in both the Palmer Cup and Curtis Cup.

As well as the comfort level of playing with the outgoing Talley, she shares in common the fact they have both won the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Gillman in 2014 while she was still in high school and Talley the year before.

They did not play on the same UA team as Talley graduated in 2016, with Gillman joining the team the fall of that year, but know each other well.

“Kristen played great. She beat my butt today (Thursday). I want to get her tomorrow,” Talley said.

Talley is a member of Shoal Creek and in her rookie year on the LPGA Tour.

“The day was rough. I’m happy to be at 2-over to be honest. I just kind of struggled, but it helped hearing a lot of ‘Roll Tides.’ I had a lot of support out there.”

Jenny Suh, who played for UA in 2006-07 after following Crimson Tide head coach Mic Potter when he moved from Furman to UA, shot 76 in her opening round.

Suh played the LPGA Tour from 2011-15, but left the tour behind and is now an occasional golfer in her role as membership director at Dye Preserve in Jupiter, Fla.

“I was a little surprised to qualify (for the championship via sectional qualifying), but thought why not give it a go. I had to grind to shoot 76. I play sparingly now. I don’t miss it much, but this was special to qualify for and play in.”