DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Nov. 30, 2011 - Christine Song of Fullerton, Calif., grabbed the first-round lead at 6-under 66 today at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.
The Orlando resident, who practices out of LPGA International, birdied her last three holes on the Champions Course and turned in a score that featured six birdies on her final nine holes. Song said a three-putt bogey on No. 2, her 11th hole, "woke up" her putter.
"That three-putt bogey got my head back together and after that, I went crazy," said Song, 20, a second-year LPGA Tour member.
Song leads by one shot over UCLA senior Stephanie Kono of Honolulu, Hawaii, who carded a 5-under 67 in her opening round.
In third place is Thidapa ("Jasmine") Suwannapura of Bangkok, Thailand at 4-under 68. All three of the leaders played on the Champions Course today at LPGA International.
"I know these courses, so it's kind of like my playground here," said Song, who finished 126th on the LPGA's 2011 Official Money List, earning LPGA status through the LPGA Futures Tour.
While Song struggled with putting early in the round, Kono said her ball striking was lacking at the start of her round today. Starting on the back nine of the Champions Course, Kono recorded pars on holes 10 through 17, and didn't roll in her first birdie until she drained a 12-footer on No. 18.
Kono bogeyed No. 2 after she failed to get up and down for par from a bunker. But the three-time, first-team All-American at UCLA rolled in birdies on her next three holes from three feet, 12 feet and one foot, and then capped off her round with birdies on her last two holes to draw within a shot of the lead.
"It feels good to get off to a solid start, but I have to stay patient," said Kono, who turned 22 last Sunday. "There are still a lot of holes to play."
Brittany Johnston of Akron, Ohio got to five under through 17 holes on the Legends Course at LPGA International today, but took a double-bogey 6 on the 18th hole when she missed the green on the right. A 2011 tournament winner on the LPGA Futures Tour, Johnston was forced to chip from heavy rough bordering the treeline. She finished at 3-under 69 for the best score from the Legends Course out of the top 15 scores in today's round.
Eight players are tied for fifth at 2-under 70, including Ginger Howard of Bradenton, Fla., medalist at the LPGA's Stage II Qualifying Tournament in Venice, Fla. Daytona State College alumna Mitsuki Katahira of Kawasaki City, Japan, previously the top-ranked woman amateur in the world, also finished in that group.
Twenty-four players are under par after the opening round, with a total of 36 players at even-par 72 or better.
A field of 139 players are in this week's event, hoping to either earn membership or improve their current member status for the 2012 LPGA Tour. Sectional qualifiers, along with current LPGA Tour members attempting to improve their status for 2012, are in the field. In addition, players finishing Nos. 6-10, and the next top 10 players on the 2011 LPGA Futures Tour money list (who do not already have LPGA status), are also in the field.
The five-round qualifier will cut to the low 70 players and ties after 72 holes. Those players making the cut will compete in the final round on the Champions Course.
Players finishing 1st through 40th, including ties, will receive 2012 LPGA membership.
To follow scores of these and other contestants throughout the week, visit LPGA.com.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, LPGA communications, 386-274-6216, or email@example.com .