TRINITY, Texas—The first round of play had yet to be concluded as darkness fell on Whispering Pines during the second day of The Spirit International. Fierce storms brought more than 6½ of rain between Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and when play resumed after a 25½-hour interruption, the U.S. Team wasted little time in taking control of the tournament.
The U.S. Women had three holes left to play and the U.S. Men had four remaining in the first round when play was called Thursday due to darkness. The U.S. leads the International Team Division at 16-under par. Sweden, one of the few teams that finished play in the first round, is 11-under par and is tied with Malaysia for second place. Malaysia on Friday will have two holes to play to complete its first round.
South Africa sits in fourth place at 10-under overall. Belgium is fifth at 7-under. (For complete results, visit www.thespiritgolf.com).
Play was called because of darkness just before 7 p.m. The players will return to their positions at 8:30 a.m. on Friday morning. The second round is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.
The U.S., which has won gold in the International Team competition in each of the past two Spirits, were paced Thursday by reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion Scottie Scheffler and Oklahoma State sophomore Jordan Niebrugge. They combined to shoot 10-under par through 14 holes. Niebrugge, who represented the U.S. earlier this year at the Walker Cup, was 5-under par. He poured in seven birdies, including a stretch of five birdies in six holes as played concluded.
The U.S. Women combined to shoot 6-under par. Clemson freshman Ashlan Ramsey, who already this year has won two collegiate events in just four starts, birdied the second and third holes. She finished with three birdies through 15 holes. Her teammate Ally McDonald birdied four holes.
“We played really well,” said McDonald, winner of the 2013 North and South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst. “It was important to get out to a strong start. We know that you can’t win the tournament on the first day, but you can lose it. We’re in good shape so far.”
Ireland, one of the first teams out on Wednesday morning, finished 5-under and is tied for sixth place. The Irish players had slogged through seven holes in the rain before play was suspended at 10:33 a.m. Wednesday.
“We played yesterday in that torrential rain,” said Leona McGuire, who failed record a birdie in the first round. “It was very wet out there, but it started drying out as play went on today. We had a lot of chances, but we were a bit unlucky. Lisa (Leona’s twin sister) hit the pin on 14 and the ball ricocheted 10 yards off the green.”
One of the unique aspects of The Spirit is the five separate competitions that are contested simultaneously. In addition to the International Team Division, there are Men’s and Women’s Team Divisions and an Individual Division for the Men and Women.
Niebrugge and Scheffler lead the Men’s Division at 10-under par. Sweden and Malaysia are tied for second at 8-under. The U.S. also leads the Women’s Division; McDonald and Ramsey are 6-under. South Africa is a shot back at 5-under, and Ireland and Belgium are tied for third place at 4-under.
Niebrugge, who caught fire at the end of the day with three straight birdies on his final three holes, leads the Men’s Individual Division with seven total birdies. South Africa’s Kim Williams, who is playing in The Spirit for a record fourth time, leads the Women’s Individual Division with six birdies.