MANATEE -- The greens at Sara Bay Country Club gave the region's best female golfers fits Monday at the 100th Women's Southern Golf Association Amateur.
But high school senior-to-be Sierra Brooks had an answer.
She gave herself room for error.
"I hit 18 greens (in regulation) today, so that definitely helps," said Brooks, who won the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1A individual championship last fall and led Lake Mary Prep to the team crown. "These greens are very tricky and undulating, but I managed to get a lot of pars and even a few birdies."
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Brooks paced the field with an even-par 72 -- three birdies, three bogeys -- in the lone stroke-play qualifying round. Elon University junior Emily Brooks and former Futures Tour golf
er Sarah Davison, who has regained her amateur status, shot 74s.
The top 32 players in the qualifying round advanced to match play, which begins Tuesday and continues through Friday's 36-hole finale.
The prestigious tournament lost two of its most decorated players before the first tee. Defending champion Mika Liu, an IMG Academy junior-to-be, and four-time U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi failed to make their tee times. Tournament officials said Liu was sidelined by food poisoning and Stasi encountered flight delays.
Sierra Brooks, who has committed to play for Wake Forest, is an accomplished match-play competitor in her own right, having competed on the victorious U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team and won the American Junior Golf Association's Polo Junior Golf Classic last fall.
"Those are two really good players who aren't playing, but the goal is to beat the golf course. I'm disappointed I won't get to compete against them, though," she said of Liu and Stasi.
It was evident early that Monday's scores would be higher than usual at the WSGA Amateur, which attracts top amateurs from 15 Southern states and the District of Columbia.
Rachel Carpenter, a recent St. John's University graduate from St. Simons Island, Ga., entered the tournament with the lowest handicap. She shot 79 in the first group of the day. The cut line came in at 9-over-par 81.
"Mainly on the greens is where I had issues today, just on the back nine. I missed some short putts, had some three-putts, a four-putt. ... I figured it would be 78 or 79 that would make the top 32," Carpenter said.
Emily Brooks agreed the greens were challenging.
"Tee to green, the course was manageable," she said. "I just tried to keep the ball below the hole all day."
Making her first trip to the WSGA Amateur, Emily Brooks said she was impressed with a tradition that includes former winners Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, both LPGA players.
"I'm glad I came. I didn't know this tournament had been around so long. One-hundred years is how old my great-grandmother would be. I was reading the brochure, and there's a lot of history," she said.
Among local players who made the cut were IMG Academy student Jaravee Boonchant (76), Lakewood Ranch resident and West Florida junior-to-be Lauren Lamm (76); IMG senior Rinko Mitsunaga (78); 2013 champion Hally Leadbetter (79), an IMG product who plays at Rollins College; and IMG student Rino Sasaki (80).