Golf

Amateur golfers Regina Plasencia and Daniela Darquea qualify in U.S. Women's Open sectional

BRADENTON -- Playing in the first group, Regina Plasencia finished early.

Social media such as Instagram and Snapchat became allies as Plasencia waited for all the scores to fill up the leaderboard Monday at the U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifier at the 6,311-yard Bradenton Country Club.

"I had to be patient," Plasencia said.

Her patience was rewarded alongside Daniela Darquea when the two amateur golfers carded 3-under par 139 totals for the 36-hole tournament.

They received the two qualifying berths into July's U.S. Women's Open in Lancaster, Pa.

It's the first time either will participate in the major championship.

"It's probably the best thing I've done in my ... golf career," Darquea said. "I'm super excited. I can't even think right now."

Plasencia, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, posted a 67 in the first round held Monday morning, while Darquea fired a 68.

Both had 71s to grab the qualifying berths ahead of Bradenton's Nelly Korda, whose final-round 69 left her one shot out of a playoff. Instead, Korda was the first alternate with a 140. The second alternate went to Morgan Baxendale, who shot 71-70--141.

For Plasencia, the co-medalist honors were due to her tournament-low first round.

"I played a solid round of golf in the first round and my putting was pretty on point (Monday)," Plasencia said. "I gave myself a lot of birdie chances and I converted those. And in the second round, I wish I could have given myself more birdie chances. But still, I got some up-and-downs. ... The last round, the goal was mainly to get in."

Plasencia, who won her first-career collegiate tourney this past season at the University of Arkansas, nailed the green on the difficult 190-yard par-3 18th and secured a par to finish at 139.

She used a 2-hybrid with the wind whipping into her, and the success in the pressure-situation was something she can build on for the intense nature of the U.S. Open in two months.

"I wasn't paying attention to score much out there," Plasencia said. "I was just focused on my routine and hitting it where I wanted to. The putts were just falling (Monday). ... You can get (tied) up to scoring and then you forget about the process that goes into hitting a good golf shot."

Meanwhile, Darquea, who attends the University of Miami, rebounded from the disappointment of not having her team qualify for the NCAA Women's Division I National Championship at The Concession Golf Club later this week by bumping Korda out of the qualifying picture by a shot.

"It's a tough day," Darquea said. "It was really hot (Monday). I think the physical conditioning, it was really important. I hit good shots. I didn't have any mistakes."

Unlike Plasencia, Darquea was one of the last groups to finish the event. Nonetheless, a strong 68 in the morning round contributed to her successful passage to the U.S. Women's Open, slated for July 9-12.

And the Quito, Ecuador, native will do so representing the booming popularity of golf in South America.

"It's an honor, especially being from Ecuador," Darquea said. "It's such a small country. Almost no golfing there. I think it's really important for our country, for all the little kids, to see that there's an opportunity."

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