WILLIAMSBURG—It looked and sounded impressive off the tee. But one had to follow Lorena Ochoa's drive on the 18th hole to its eventual resting place to truly understand its power.
Ochoa easily carried the water running alongside the fairway, prompting oohs and ahs from spectators craning their necks to see where the ball landed. What become apparent as Ochoa and the fans got closer was that once it did, it kept right on going, catching the slope of a hill and rolling to within 100 yards of the hole.
"It was a good drive," Ochoa said. "That open side of the course — 16, 17 and 18 –— had 15- to 20-mph winds.
"So it was easy to get the ball in the wind. … I thought it would stay on the top (of the hill). I was surprised to see it at the bottom, but I was very happy to see that."
Ochoa's second shot settled 12 feet from the hole, and she drained the birdie putt for a first-round 7-under-par 64. It was her best round in six appearances at Kingsmill, where she's finished second three times but never won.
Ride the windHow windy was it on Thursday? The River Course's par-3 17th, with its entire right flank exposed to a choppy James River, provided a vivid illustration.
As the group of Pat Hurst, Katherine Hull and Carin Koch stood at the elevated tee, a hawk glided over the green, a fish clutched in its talons. But the predator ran into trouble as it battled a sudden updraft, losing its momentum but not its lunch before catching a favorable air current and finding shelter in a nearby tree.
However, the wind didn't stop Hurst's caddy from cupping his hands around a cigarette and successfully lighting it, nor did it make the 163-yard hole particularly treacherous.
The players in the star-studded group playing behind Hurst — 2005 Mich Ultra champion Cristie Kerr, 2006 champ Karrie Webb and 2007 winner Suzann Pettersen — each hit their approaches to within 15 feet, though Webb was the only one to capitalize with a birdie.
Then came Ochoa, who knocked her tee shot stiff to within 7 feet. After playing partners Jiyai Shin and Angela Stanford, who shot a first-round 68, each birdied the hole, Ochoa followed suit to quickly make up the stroke she lost with a bogey on 16.
Ochoa had no problem handling the breeze for most of a day that turned sunny and warm after Thursday morning's rain ended.
Amateur hourThe two amateurs in the Mich Ultra field had trouble keeping pace in the first round. Meredith Swanson was even for much of the day before finishing at 1-over-par 72, which tied her for 68th, while Victoria Tanco struggled to an 8-over 79. Her round included two double bogeys.
Swanson, a student at Roanoke's Hidden Valley High who will play at South Carolina, replaced Blacksburg High star Courtney Ellenbogen in the tournament after Ellenbogen withdrew last Monday. Swanson is the No. 2-ranked junior in Virginia behind Ellenbogen.