SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- The youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open had nearly four hours to size up her first birdie putt.
Alexis Thompson lined it up on the second hole of her opening round when the horn sounded to warn of severe weather, sending the players hustling to the clubhouse. After no rain fell, play resumed 3 hours and 45 minutes later, and the 12-year-old player left that 30-foot putt two feet short.
It was an early lesson in patience for the only soon-to-be seventh-grader in the field. She finished her first day at 3-over 39 through nine holes when play was suspended Thursday because of darkness.
"I'm pretty happy -- I'll just go into tomorrow and try to make my pars," Thompson said. "Pars are good for this course, because it's so long."
Thompson, who supplanted Morgan Pressel as the youngest player to make the Women's Open field, had four bogeys and one birdie while consistently keeping her drives in the fairways and -- like so many other players here -- occasionally becoming bedeviled by the tricky greens at the Donald Ross-designed course at Pine Needles.
"She's just a little shaky on the greens -- she's a little nervous putting on them," said her father, Scott, who caddied for her.
Thousands of fans were curious how Thompson would perform on a challenging course and in a field that includes Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam and the best players in the sport.
Starting her round on the back nine with a gallery four deep, the ponytailed pre-teen with the pink visor showed no visible signs of jitters and sent her opening drive squarely down the middle of the fairway.
"When she ripped that first tee shot, it almost brought a tear to my eye," Scott Thompson said.
She struck each of her drives with authority and confidence -- even though she later admitted to taking deep breaths after practice swings to remain calm.
"The first tee, I was a little nervous," Thompson said. "After that one, it was smooth sailing."
Thompson bogeyed three of her first four holes -- the exception was the weather-delayed par on No. 11 -- before finding a rhythm and hitting two of the prettiest shots of the day.
"I know after my first few bogeys, I [thought], 'I'm going to make my pars, I'm going to get up and down if I miss the green,'" she said.
Her 40-foot chip from the back right fringe on the par-4 14th rolled inches from the hole and set up a tap-in for par. Then, on the freshly extended par-5 15th, she plopped her third shot in the middle of the green and then made a 30-foot putt for her first birdie, giving her father-caddie a fist-bump as they walked off.
"I turned to my caddie afterwards, and I was like, 'That is a U.S. Open moment, by far,'" said Angela Jerman, one of her playing partners. "It was pure, and it was exciting. When she walked to me, I go, 'First birdie of the U.S. Open, that's impressive -- as a 12-year-old.'"
Thompson ended her day with a bogey, three-putting on the roly-poly green at the par-4 18th.
"She's afraid to hit it hard on these things because they're slick," Scott Thompson said. "But I'd have left it way short, too."
Beverly Klass was the youngest to play in the Women's Open when she was 10 in 1967, but that was before the USGA began holding qualifying.
Before Thompson, Pressel had become the tournament's youngest qualifier in 2001 when she was just shy of her 13th birthday when she made it for the Open that also was played at Pine Needles.
Playing there Thursday for the first time since then, Pressel shot a 71.
"It's just great to come around again, to remember what it was like and just know how much has changed in that period of time and just how much fun I'm still having out here, and how I'm living my dream from the dream that I had when I was here last time," Pressel said.
That's a dream Thompson has shared ever since she picked up the game as a 5-year-old from her brothers -- Nicholas, who is on the Nationwide Tour, and Curtis, who at 17 qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur. Weather permitting, she will play 27 holes Friday -- but her father said that shouldn't be a problem because she already survived a 36-hole qualifier just to get here.
"We're not worried about 27 holes," Scott Thompson said.
His daughter never seemed worried about much of anything. The carefree youngster spent the weather delay playing pool and ping-pong with Vicky Hurst, Tiffany Lua and Kimberly Kim and otherwise lounging around in the clubhouse.
"I just hung out in the locker room. ... It was pretty fun," she said.