ÉVIAN-LES-BAINS, FRANCE | For the first time in anyone’s memory, two of the four leaders going into the weekend at a major championship have never cursed in their lives. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to get a “golly darn” out of either María Torres or Amy Olson. What you will get is a wealth of smiles, prayers, good wishes and wonderful warm feelings from two of best human beings you’ll run across in our game.
Both players have shot 134 to get to the lead, Torres with a 65-69 performance and Olson with a 69-65. They’re joined at 8 under by Mo Martin and Mi-hyang Lee, both of whom have gone 68-66. A dozen players are within two shots of the lead.
Of those only two are winless: Torres in her rookie season and Olson in her fifth year on tour. After that, the pair’s paths diverge.
Torres is a city girl from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where golf can be played year round. Olson grew up in Oxbow, North Dakota, a town of 300 people that looks like Antarctica for 100 days a year and is, in Olson’s words, “So flat that if you dog ran away you could still see him two days later.”
Torres is the only golfer in her family. As a child she played at El Legado, where she met Chi Chi Rodriguez. “I used to ride horses and there was a driving range that I would ride by near my house,” she said. “My dad asked me if I wanted to take classes. So, I started taking lessons.”
Olson’s dad took up the game before she was born and the family built a home on Oxbow Country Club where Amy and her brother, Nathan Anderson, played every day they could. “My brother started playing early and got pretty competitive so I watched him and got pretty jealous,” Olson told me immediately after shooting 65 on Friday. “So he was my inspiration to start playing.”
Both played collegiately, Torres at the University of Florida where she won the SEC Championship, and Olson at North Dakota State where she won an NCAA record 20 collegiate tournaments.
Torres, at age 23, is competing in only her second major. She missed the cut by 10 in her first.
Olson, age 26 and married to Grant Olson, linebacker coach at Indiana State University, played in the final group at the ANA Inspiration in April.
Torres expects countless friends and family members on her home island to watch her this weekend. “We are a small island and I’ve gotten a lot of support,” she said.
Olson’s husband won’t watch. “He has a game and they’re in meetings pretty early,” she said. “He’ll check the scores online but he won’t be able to watch any of (Saturday) live.”
But there are a few other ways to know what kind of people Torres and Olson are. After her round, Torres stood beside the large outdoor scoreboard behind the clubhouse at Evian Resort Golf Club and signed autographs for school children for a half-hour.
And Olson, who normally bakes cookies for the Sycamores’ linebacker, felt terrible about missing her duties. “I called the head coach’s wife,” she said. “I told her, ‘Hey, we’ve got 11 linebackers. Could you bake enough for everybody?’ So, she’s got me covered.”
Great people who are worth following, this weekend and beyond.