Georgia prep star medalist at U.S. Women's Open qualifier

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Jessica Porvasnik was steady, but Bailey Tardy stormed down the backstretch to swipe first place Monday in the 36-hole U.S. Women's Open qualifying at Butler Country Club.

Porvasnik, 18, carded back-to-back rounds of 73 and took a two-shot lead into the clubhouse, but Tardy, 17, blazed through the final 18 holes with an even-par 71, the low round of the day, to sneak ahead of Porvasnik by one shot.

Tardy had done this before. She overcame a six-stroke deficit to defeat Porvasnik on the final day at the Trusted Choice Big "I" National Championship in August at the Country Club of North Carolina at Pinehurst, N.C.

"If Jessica was my only competition, I knew I'd have a chance," Tardy said Monday. "But it didn't really matter."

And why not? In the end, this rematch was nothing more than a friendly rivalry. The top three finishers Monday qualified, so Tardy, Porvasnik and Jennifer Song, 24, are bound for Pinehurst -- appropriately enough -- for the U.S. Women's Open June 19-22

"I can't really wrap my mind around it yet," Tardy said. "It still hasn't hit me."

It was the young, blue-chip talent that stood out in the field of 72 golfers -- including 14 international players and 12 Pennsylvania residents -- at alternating rain- and sun-soaked Butler Country Club.

Tardy, a high school junior in Norcross, Ga., is pledged to attend Georgia. As of Monday, she was ranked the No. 15 high school women's golfer by GolfWeek.

Ohio State's Porvasnik, a Hinckley, Ohio, native, was recently named Big Ten Conference freshman of the year. Her father beamed as he walked away the scorer's tent, phone pressed to his ear, and quietly announced, "Pack your bags, we're going to the U.S. Open."

Song, of Ann Arbor, Mich., shot a first-round 76 before a one-over 72 on the final 18 holes. She will compete in her fourth U.S. Women's Open, having finished 30th in 2011 and missing the cut the past two years.

A mid-afternoon rain delay suspended play for about an hour, but it didn't stall Tardy's momentum as she cruised through the back nine.

"The greens were a lot slower," she said. "I guess I didn't realize how much rain had come down. After a couple putts you got used to it."

The putter had been her focus for the past three weeks, and it paid off Monday. She dropped 5-footers on the 16th and 17th holes of her final round to all but punch her ticket to Pinehurst No. 2.

"I was kind of thinking about [the stakes] over my last four goals," Tardy said. "But I told myself, 'Just par out and you'll have a chance.' And I did."

Her only real mistake, she admitted, was forgetting to bring a rain jacket.

Despite the adverse weather conditions, scores improved significantly from a year ago, when Erica Herr and Rachel Rohanna took the two qualifying spots with 36-hole totals of 152 and 153, respectively. Rohanna was back this year and finished at 150.

Butler Country Club was one of 24 hosts for the qualifying stages. Two former U.S. Women's Open champions, Hilary Lunke (2003) and Birdie Kim (2005), reached the championship through a qualifier.

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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