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Golf: Lambert's Sara Im relishes in U.S. Women's Open experience
Lambert junior Sara Im tees off on hole No. 17 during the second round of the Class 7A girls golf tournament at Chimney Oaks Golf Club in Homer. - photo by David Roberts

Sara Im has yet to graduate high school — or even start her senior year at Lambert — but the young phenom already owns several major moments in her amateur golf career.

Her latest was a different kind of major, as in an LPGA major. 

Im, 17, spent 36 holes testing herself against the best female golfers in the entire world at the U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C., which concluded Sunday with Minjee Lee winning the event with a 13-under 271.

Im's debut couldn't have started much better, as she birdied her first hole of the tournament on hole No. 9. Im hit a rough patch in the middle of the back nine, but a birdie on 18 set her back on course and triggered a streak of seven straight pars, which helped her to a first-round score of 3-over 74.

"I feel like nothing dropped ... and my ball-striking was, like, 'meh.' So, considering all that, it wasn't too bad, I guess," Im said. "I wish I did better, but it's all right. It's my first open."

Im posted an identical 3-over 74 during the second round, playing 13 holes at par and birdying the 507-yard hole par 5 10, the round's second-longest hole.

Im's 36-hole score of 6-over 148 placed her three shots over the cut line as the top 70 golfers played into the weekend.

"It's definitely harder than I thought it would be, and I just need to practice a lot more after this," Im said.

In all, Im was one of 29 amateurs at the tournament. Only four amateurs made the cut, and Im's score was ninth best among all amateur scores.

Im qualified for the tournament last month after finishing 5-under at a 36-hole qualifier at Dunwoody Country Club. 

Just over a week later, Im helped the Longhorns to their eighth state championship, finishing as the low medalist with a 6-under 138 and capping a junior season that saw her also win the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Championship in April.

Im, a Vanderbilt University commit, will spend much of her senior year playing in high-profile tournaments and hopes to return to the U.S. Women's Open soon.

"It was super cool," Im said. "There were so many people around — probably the most people I've played in front of or hit a ball in front of, so that was definitely exciting. It was amazing. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed both of my playing partners — they were both amazing. I really enjoyed it. I wish to be back soon."