Saturday, March 20, 2010

Four Share Futures Tour Lead At Florida’s

Natural Charity Classic

WINTER HAVEN, Florida: The first round of the Duramed FUTURES Tour’s season opener ended with four players tied for the lead at 3-under 69 in the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic.
Jenny Gleason of Clearwater, Fla., moved to the top of the leaderboard in the second annual $100,000 tournament at Lake Region Yacht and Country Club, but by sunset, she shared the lead with Hannah Yun of Bradenton, Fla., Cindy LaCrosse of Tampa, Fla., and Jessica Shepley of Oakville, Ontario.
“You get some good lies and you get some bad lies,” said Gleason, a two-time winner on the Tour who needed only 27 putts. “I hope everybody took their patience pill today. I’m from Central Florida and I know all of the courses are struggling after the winter we’ve had.”
Central Florida has suffered with unusually cold temperatures for the last two months, affecting golf course agronomy. The region also was smacked by heavy rainfall less than a week ago, resulting in thinner-than-usual grass growth and muddy accumulation on golf balls landing in thin lies.
But 144 players kicking off the Futures Tour year were greeted by perfect sunny weather. Like Gleason, Yun said she tried to stay patient and calm. That strategy worked early when she birdied the first two holes from 10 feet and 12 feet, respectively, and then added two more birdies to one bogey.
“I shot a 69 here last year in the first round, but I feel different and more mature in my game,” said Yun, who turns 18 in April. “I’m learning how to play as a pro now and how one shot really does make a difference.”
Playing in her first full season this year, LaCrosse, who has 2010 LPGA status, was steady all day, hitting 16 greens in regulation and missing only one fairway. Unlike many other players in the field who are still trying to adjust to new clubs to meet the U.S. Golf Association’s new conforming grooves regulations, LaCrosse was striping her new clubs in a round that produced two birdies, one bogey and a holed-out eagle on the par-5 ninth hole in which she drained an 84-yard 54-degree wedge shot.
“I played in 11 events out here last year after I graduated,” said LaCrosse, a former All-American at the University of Louisville. “This year, I will definitely be more goal-oriented to see what I can do.”
Playing in the last group of the day, Shepley outraced the sunset and grabbed a share of the lead. Like the other Florida residents deadlocked for first, Shepley, who is commuting from her home in Orlando this week, wanted to get off to a good start. For the Canadian, it started on the first hole when she three-putted for bogey off the fringe.
“I told myself then that I had a choice to let it go or let this be the start of a long season,” said Shepley, who hit 15 greens in regulation and carded four birdies and one bogey in today’s opening round. “I was a big girl and turned it into a good round.”
Five players are tied one shot back at 2-under 70 after the first round, including Lauren Doughtie of Suffolk, Va., who was in the first 8:15 a.m. pairing with Erica Moston of Belmont, Calif., and Lili Alvarez of Durango, Mexico, who had special guest LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan serving as her caddie.
“I had butterflies this morning, but not necessarily because of the commissioner,” said Doughtie, a second-year professional who played collegiately at North Carolina State University. “I tried to think he was a normal guy out there and we were just out having fun.”
Doughtie is deadlocked at 70 with rookie Victoria Elizabeth of Orlando, Fla., rookie Jane Rah of Torrance, Calif., 2010 LPGA Tour member Nicole Jeray of Berwyn, Ill., and second-year pro Garrett Phillips of St. Simons Island, Georgia.
There was a different tone in the atmosphere this morning for the tee-off to the 2010 season on the Duramed Futures Tour. With the arrival of LPGA Commissioner Whan came a plethora of LPGA staff members, the Golf Channel and one national weekly golf magazine.
At least a couple of former Tour members also wandered onto the course to see friends and check out the Tour. Former Tour member and Florida Gator Jeanne Cho-Hunicke drove over from Orlando to watch current player Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, while 2006 Duramed Futures Tour Player of the Year Song-Hee Kim of South Korea, now an LPGA Tour member who is world-ranked No. 14, showed up to see her friends and to check out the tour where she got her start.
“It looks good,” said Kim, sweeping her hand at the tournament grounds. “Bigger, better, really good.”
A total of 19 players carded rounds under par with 34 players finishing at even-par 72 or better.
Weather: Sunny with temperatures in the mid-70s and a slight breeze.