Amateur Katelyn Dambaugh (North Charleston, S.C.) and Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras (Roi-et, Thailand) posted 5-under rounds of 67 on the Jones Course to share the first round lead at the final stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament.
“I was just focusing on having fun out there,” Dambaugh said. “My coach from home was on the bag and we were just out there goofing off and having fun like we always do. I’m just trying to take it one shot at a time and not put pressure on myself and letting the results take care of themselves.”
The senior at the University of South Carolina made five birdies and a hole out eagle against a pair of bogeys to post her 5-under round.
“It feels good obviously,” Dambaugh said of her play. “I came here with not many expectations. I just came to try and play my best and do what I’ve been doing. I knew if I did that I’d have a decent round today and getting off to a good start makes it a little easier.”
While a strong finish would obviously earn Dambaugh her 2017 Tour Card she isn’t thinking that far into the future just yet.
“My goal here was just to play the best I can and get some more experience,” Dambaugh said. “I can get a little bit more status for Symetra when I graduate so that’s the goal.”
You might surprised to learn who Dambaugh looks up to.
“I really look up to Phil Mickelson because I like his attitude on the golf course, you never see him swear or throw clubs,” said Dambaugh. “I just love how he holds himself.”
Thanapolboonyaras, who finished T15 at Q-School last season, will look to retain her card after finishing 123rd on the 2016 LPGA money list with $42,988 earned.
The duo will take a one-shot lead over Min-G Kim (Chula Vista, Calif.), Nasa Hataoka (Ibaraki, Japan) and Jaye Marie Green (Boca Raton, Fla.) who also competed on the Jones Course.
Mel Reid (Loughborough, England), JeongEun Lee (Seoul, South Korea) and Celine Boutier (Montrouge, France) all shot 3-under for the low rounds on the Hills Course and are in a group of eight players who sit two-shots back.
On Wednesday, the Hills Course played to an average of 75.068 while the Jones played 72.621.
#91 IN WORLD BROCH LARSEN STARTS STRONGNicole Broch Larsen (Hillerod, Denmark), who is the second highest ranked player in the field according to the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings at No. 91, opened her Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying Tournament with a 69 on the Jones Course.
“The days leading up I’ve been struggling a bit with my swing so it was nice to start out with three under,” Broch Larsen said. “I worked hard with my coach the past three days so it’s nice to see a good score up there. It’s a long week and a lot of things can happen but it was a good start and I’m happy with how I’ve improved these days.”
Larsen, who finished tied for 50th last season at Q-School to miss obtaining any LPGA status for 2016, feels that she is better prepared for the mental grind this time around.
“I’ve definitely grown a lot,” Broch Larsen admitted. “Playing last year has helped me a lot mentally as well. I think it’s all about accepting those bad shots because you’re playing five rounds so you will hit bad shots and you will make bogeys and maybe a few double bogeys as well and you just have to accept that and last year I remember I was just panicking every time that I made a bogey. This week I’m just trying to enjoy it and keep patient and I’ll see what happens.”
Helping Broch Larsen out with the grind is 7-time LPGA Tour winner Helen Alfredsson.
“I stayed in her house,” Broch Larsen said. “She’s not here but we’ve been chatting. We keep in touch. She texted me yesterday. She’s really nice and really good at getting me relaxed and getting me to focus.”
2-TIME SOLHEIM CUP PARTICIPANT MEL REID STARTS WITH A 69Mel Reid (Loughborough, England) tied the low round of the day on the Hills Course with a 3-under 69 and is in a tie for sixth.
“I felt like I was pretty much most of the time in control of what I was trying to do with the golf ball which is always nice,” Reid said. “This course is definitely two or three shots trickier at least, especially with this wind. I said to Benj (her caddie) anything in the 60s today would be good.”
Reid came over early from England to prepare for Q-School with her coach Kevin Craggs.
“We had three or four really good days,” Reid said. “It’s absolutely freezing at home so we decided it was better to get used to the Floridian grass. We did three or four days out in Orlando and then spent a couple of days out in West Palm just relaxing and came here Monday.”
The relaxation was key to Reid as she knows how tough a week at Q-School can be.
“You have to relax this week because it’s a bit of a slug,” Reid explained. “It’s unpredictable and with my kind of attitude I’ve sometimes overdone things and that’s my weakness at times so we’re literally taking it very easy this week. I feel like with my preparation I’ve worked really hard so we’re going to do as little as possible with practice and just keep nice and fresh and stay healthy and try to have as much of a good time as we can over the next four days.”
While the goal is obviously to earn her LPGA Tour Card, Reid is taking a slightly different approach this week.
“If you get to about 20-under I think you’d get your card so that’s what we’re trying to get to. I think that we see it as a tournament and we’re trying to win it. I know the stakes of top-20 but we’re here to win a tournament so I’ve got a number in my head and I’m just going to try my very best to get to that number.”
ASHOK MAKES BIRDIE ON 18 TO POST 73Olympian Aditi Ashok, who has won the last two Ladies European Tour events, started with a 1-over, 73 on the Jones course at LPGA International. She is T52.
“It was really up and down, I didn’t find my rhythm during the round,” explained Ashok. “I dropped a few shots on real easy holes when other girls were making birdies and I was struggling to make a par. It got a bit windy and I could have been better in the wind. Still, I made four or five birdies so it is not bad. If I make fewer mistakes, I should be able to play three or four under.”
Ashok made two birdies and three bogeys on the front nine. She carded three birdies and three bogeys on the back including a 7-foot birdie on 18.
“That birdie was good of course,” said Ashok. “You think it is just one shot, but tomorrow if I make a couple birdies then suddenly I am under-par for the tournament. You feel like you are moving
upwards when you finish with a birdie.”
Ashok said she prefers the Hills course because it is less windy and there are fewer trees.
17-YEAR-OLD HATAOKA POSTS 68The second youngest player in the field, Nasa Hataoka (Ibaraki, Japan), posted a strong 4-under, 68 on the Jones course to stand in a tie for third.
“I was really nervous before the tournament,” said Hataoka, through her translator. “I’m really happy to shoot under-par today.”
Hataoka made four birdies in her bogey-free round.
“My putting was really good today,” said Hataoka. “I saved three or four holes because of my
putting and I am really happy about that.”
JAYE MARIE GREEN STARTS STRONG WITH GOOD MEMORIESJaye Marie Green (Boca Raton, Florida) thinks back on her 2013 Qualifying Tournament when she posted a record 29-under to earn medalist honors often. She started strong in her first trip back to Qualifying Tournament with a 4-under, 68.
“It was definitely windier this year, apparently three years ago when I played had the calmest conditions ever,” said Green. “I wasn’t making anything at the start and then my brother, Matt (caddy), gave me a good tip and a lot of putts started going in.”
Green made four of her five birdies on the back nine including three over the final four holes.
After finishing 58th on the LPGA money list in 2015, Green was No. 112 in 2016, forcing her to return to Qualifying Tournament to improve her status.
“This year was rough, it is weird being top 60 and getting into everything to now having to come back to Q-School,” admitted Green. “I don’t think everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that this did to help give me some confidence. This first-round definitely gives me confidence.”
Green wants to leave Daytona Beach with a full card and renewed confidence.
“If I leave here knowing I made it through Q-School twice and I played good golf that would be big,” said Green. “If I can take that feeling to next year, it would be huge. I lacked a lot of confidence on and off the golf course this year.”
Green said she has really good “family vibes” this week with her brother on the bag. In 2013, her father was on the bag.
- 2014 Symetra Tour graduate Sadena Parks opened with a 69 on the Jones course to stand in a tie for sixth.
- 18 of the top 21 scores came on the Jones course.
- There were 37 players under-par on day one. Just eight of the 37 under-par scores came on the Hills course.
- Eight different countries are represented in the top 10 (Thailand, USA, South Korea, Japan, England, France, Latvia and Denmark).
- Recent UVA grad Elizabeth Szokol posted a 2-under, 70 and is tied for 14th. Her caddy is former Symetra Tour professional Calle Nielson, who is the assistant coach at Virginia.