What appears to be the glorious future of women's golf was on display at Old Waverly Golf Club on another stifling day at the U.S. Women's Open. There was even room at the top for several veterans, including 36-hole co-leaders Juli Inkster and Lorie Kane.
Kane, a 34-year-old native of Canada's Prince Edward Island who didn't turn pro until 1996 and once supported herself as a beer saleswoman, matched the course record posted by 22-year-old Kelli Kuehne in the first round with an 8-under 64 that included five birdies in her last seven holes.
Inkster, 38, a 16-year tour veteran with 17 LPGA victories, shot a 3-under 67 today to tie Kane for the lead at 10-under 134.
Despite a few more difficult pin positions and greens that are firming up and rolling faster under the searing sun, there's little doubt that the previous Open scoring record of 10 under for 72 holes -- set by Alison Nicholas two years ago at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon -- will be shattered by the time play ends Sunday. And few would be surprised if one of the game's finest young stars owns that mark.
It appears likely that all manner of records will fall this week. The most under-par rounds in an Open were 89 at Crooked Stick in Indiana in 1993. Through 36 holes, there already were 100 such rounds. The cut of even par is the lowest ever in the Open, with a plus-3, also set at Crooked Stick, the old standard. Last year, 6 over par made it into a playoff at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis. Becky Iverson's 64 -- 136 today was two off the lead, and the third 64 of the tournament, another record.
Kuehne had one birdie and 17 pars for a 71 -- 135, but was only one shot off the lead and prepared to keep firing at pins, even if her putting had cooled. She had 25 putts in the first round and 32 today, though she continued to play superbly from tee to green.
"My personality is not the conservative type," Kuehne said.
A diabetic since age 10 who has a tattoo around her left ankle, she thrives on pre-round peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and recently became engaged to former Texas offensive tackle Jay Humphrey, a fourth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings. She's 5 feet 2 and 110 pounds, he's 6-6 and 320 and will be here this weekend.
"I'm a very aggressive player," said Kuehne, champion of the Corning Classic last week who hasn't made a bogey in 36 holes. "I seem to be an aggressive person. Not in a bad way. But if I've got a chance to go right at the pin or lay up, I'm going at the pin. It's just my style."
Grace Park, a 20-year-old amateur from South Korea who came to the U.S. at age 12 to improve her game, was only three off the lead with a 67 -- 137, along with Scotland's Catriona Mathew (68) and veterans Sherri Steinhauer (69) and Dottie Pepper (69). The reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Park turns pro next week after a brilliant collegiate career at Arizona State and is attempting to become the first amateur since 1967 to win the Open.
Park, averaging over 260 yards on her drives today, had five birdies and no bogeys. She has played the first two days with fellow Korean Se Ri Pak, the defending Open champion, and Steinhauer, and batches of birdies were falling for the threesome, 11 in all.
Pak, 21, also the LPGA Championship winner last year as a rookie, posted a 70 -- 138 and is still very much in contention. Back home, the Korean media has been beating the drums for a Pak-Park rivalry, though both women insist publicly they don't pay attention to such talk.
"I don't see myself as a rival to anyone," Park said. "I guess sometimes [the Korean media] does make it a rivalry. I just ignore it because I don't believe in it personally."
"I played with her a long time ago," Pak said. "She's changed. Her game is stronger. I don't want to say anything to her [about turning pro], just stay patient. Right now, she has nothing to lose."
Last year, Pak was the subject of intense media attention back home. This year, she's more comfortable living in the United States and is no longer shy about using her improving English. Her game has fallen off somewhat, but majors clearly bring out the best in her.
This year's Open did not bring out the best in several other prominent players. Nancy Lopez will go a 23rd straight year without winning the Open. She shot a 73 -- 149 and missed the cut for the second straight year, this time on a course she truly thought she could dominate.
"It's disappointing," Lopez said. "Now I can watch everyone else and enjoy the weekend with the kids. I'd have liked to walk up the 18th fairway on Sunday. I feel like I can still play. I still feel like I've got a couple of wins in me."
And Timonium, Md., native Jenny Chuasiriporn, the Open runner-up to Pak as an amateur last year, also will not play on the weekend after a disappointing 74 -- 151 in her pro debut.
"I played a little better today, but there wasn't much I could do," Chuasiriporn said. "I did feel a little pressure here. Nothing I didn't expect. You learn to play with it. It's good pressure on some occasions. I'd like to redo the back nine  Thursday. That really did shake me up."
Kris Tschetter of McLean, the third member of the Lopez-Chuasiriporn threesome, just made the cut with a 72 -- 144. At the 447-yard 15th, her drive was headed for a marshy hazard but hit a stone bridge and kicked back into the fairway. She went on to make birdie there, and parred in.
After Tschetter checked her ball for cut marks, Lopez told her "you better go check the bridge."
CAPTION: Juli Inkster, tied for lead at 10-under 134, sizes up a putt on the 16th hole.