CHARLESTON — The first day of the 113th U.S. Women’s Amateur was a difficult one for a pair of qualifiers with area connections.

Strom Thurmond High School alums McKenzie Talbert and Anne Marie Covar are among the elite field of 156 players to qualify for the championship being played at the Country Club of Charleston. Both Talbert and Covar are decorated players who have distinguished themselves often, most recently emerging from a record 1,170 golfers that attempted to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

But both struggled Monday, the first day of 36 holes of qualifying in the championship. Talbert shot an 8-over 79 while Covar carded a 9-over 80. Those scores currently leave both players outside of the top 64, the cutoff to qualify for match play.

That’s the bad news. The good news is both Talbert and Covar are only a handful of strokes outside of the cut and have another 18 holes to play today that could change their fortunes.

Talbert’s tied for 94th after her 79. Her round included seven bogeys, a double bogey and one birdie. She was hurt by a poor finish that saw her make bogey or worse on five of her final six holes. Talbert was only 2-over through 12 holes but struggled to get home; going bogey, double, par, bogey, bogey, bogey.

Covar’s greatest struggles came in the middle of her round, although that included some of the same holes that Talbert finished on since Covar started her day on the 10th tee. Covar, tied for 110th, encountered her difficulties on an eight-hole stretch, that included the last four holes on the back nine and the first four on the front. She was five over during that span and finished her overall round with seven bogeys, two doubles and two birdies.

Covar was 6-over on the par 3s, while Talbert’s troubles were on the par 4s – posting a plus-eight on those holes. The Rebel alums will swap starting holes today, with Covar teeing off at 12:40 p.m. on No. 1 and Talbert starting on the 10th at 1:40 p.m.

Should either qualify for match play, they’ll have the opportunity to be featured on The Golf Channel. It will begin coverage on Wednesday from 3-5 p.m., with coverage scheduled from 4-6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, when the U.S. Women’s Amateur will be decided by a 36-hole championship match.

Covar’s currently a member of the Wofford women’s golf team. When she was at Strom Thurmond, Covar was the Class AA Girl’s Golfer of the Year in 2007 and 2008 and was named to the All-State team three consecutive years. She was also a member of the 2009 Carolinas Team.

Talbert just graduated from Strom Thurmond this year and is part of a star-studded team that’s heading to Clemson to revive the Tiger women’s golf program.

During her run with the Rebels, Talbert won three consecutive Class AA individual state championships and was named Carolina Girls’ Player of the Year.

She won the 2010 Beth Daniel Junior Azalea at the Country Club of Charleston, so a strong round today isn’t out of the question.

The player Talbert, Covar and everybody else in the field is chasing is Allisen Corpuz. The Honolulu resident was the only player in the U.S. Women’s Amateur to post a score under par, carding a 69, giving her a two-stroke lead over a pack of seven players tied for second at even-par.

One of Talbert’s future teammates at Clemson is tied for 55th place, as Milledgeville’s Ashlan Ramsey shot 5-over 76. Two of the more prominent players in the field struggled Monday. Lucy Li, a 10 year old who’s the youngest participant to ever play in the event, shot 11-over 82. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, 53-year-old Liz Waynick is the oldest player in championship. But she also struggled, carding 16-over 87. Waynick was the youngest player in the 1976 U.S. Women’s Amateur field at age 16.

Overall, the field includes players 20 countries and 31 states. In addition to Talbert and Covar, there are six other players from the Palmetto State that qualified. That includes Greer’s Dawn Woodard (72), Goose Creek’s Katelyn Dambaugh (74), Lexington’s Lauren Stephenson (75), Hilton Head’s Lily Bartell (81), Elgin’s Kelli Murphy (82) and Spartanburg’s Katy Funk (84).

The Women’s Amateur has long identified some of golf’s greatest women players, many of whom have gone on to successful professional careers. Patty Berg, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Marlene Stewart Streit, Anne Quast Sander, Barbara McIntire, Catherine Lacoste, Carol Semple Thompson and Beth Daniel have all secured a place in women’s golf history and all competed in the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.