LPGA T&CP National Championship
August 24, 2015
The first round of the LPGA T&CP National Championship kicked-off on the Nicklaus Course at Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Fla. on Monday and competitors were welcomed by high temperatures and typical afternoon summer storms. Play was suspended for nearly two and a half hours in the afternoon due to dangerous weather in the area. The top-eight finishers in the Championship Division after three rounds will earn spots in the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Four-time winner Jean Bartholomew (Garden City, NY), PGA Professional Karen Paolozzi (Atlanta, Ga.) and former LPGA Tour member Kristen Samp (Lawrence, Kan.) hold a share of the first-round lead in the Championship Division and each shot 3-under 69.
Jan Kleiman shot the low round of the day, a 4-under 68, and leads the Senior Division after round one.
BID FOR FOUR-PEAT LOOKING GOOD
Four-time winner of this Championship and champion of the last three, Jean Bartholomew, surprisingly came into this week at Reunion with not much on her mind. Asked how she mentally prepares to go for a four-peat, Bartholomew said to try to have a good time.
“I don’t think about it,” said Bartholomew. “That’s the whole key. Have to enjoy myself and have low expectations. And hope my back hangs in there.”
A lingering back injury continues to nag on the New York native but said it’s something she’s come to deal with and has fought through before.
“It got a little tight coming in but once I get the adrenaline going it’s alright,” said Bartholomew. “That break was tough but I got to hit a few balls to warm up so that was nice.”
Bartholomew had five birdies and two bogeys and said her putting helped her get off to a good start.
“I putted pretty well and stayed out of trouble,” said Bartholomew. “That’s the key here, just fairways and greens.”
BIGGER AND BETTER IN YEAR TWO
Karen Paolozzi made a statement in her first appearance in the T&CP National Championship a year ago, finishing runner-up to Jean Bartholomew, and said that the opportunity to compete in such a high-level event has been exactly what she has been looking for.
“I feel like there are even more upper-tier players here this year which is great,” said Paolozzi. “I love to see it. We have to get these women out here playing. This is definitely on the radar. If not the biggest event of the year, one of the biggest.”
The PGA Professional out of Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta said two three putt bogeys left her unsatisfied after working on short range putts leading into the event.
“Pretty consistent hitting the ball,” said Paolozzi. “Had a couple squireleys. I had five birdies and two three-putt bogeys. I spent an hour hitting four footers yesterday and I missed two of them today. A little frustrating but overall happy how I hit the ball. Just need to get some of those putts dialed in.”
Asked if her goal was to come in and win the event in her second appearance, the University of Indiana product showed her spirited drive to compete.
“Of course I want to win it,” said Paolozzi.
Competitive? “Oh just a little bit,” she said with a sarcastic tone. “That’s absolutely my goal is to win it but I just really do want to get back to the KPMG and go out to Sahalee. That’s definitely the real goal. Winning would be absolutely awesome. There are a lot of good players here.”
Paolozzi said the opportunity to play in an LPGA major championship is huge for the teaching pro contingent and was fueled by her experience at Westchester Country Club earlier this year at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“So awesome. Had such a great experience,” said Paolozzi. “Had a terrible second round but you know what the week overall was great. It was neat to be back in that kind of atmosphere with the fans and the grandstands.”
The Georgia native missed the cut but had plenty to take away from the week and said watching the Tour pros was a learning experience in itself.
“I get to watch their games and see how sharp they are around the greens and really take that back to my students too,” said Paolozzi. “Just be like ‘these ladies can score!’ They know how to score. The average golfer hits it just as far but they know how to get the ball in the hole. That’s what I enjoyed watching.”
HANG IN THERE
The 20 competitors in the Challenge Division were glad to get their rounds in on Monday before storms moved in at Reunion Resort but warm morning conditions proved tough for the field. First-round leader Louisa Bergsma (Maineville, Ohio) finished with a 1-over 73 and leads Teresa Zamboni (Port Orange, Fla.) by one shot. Bergsma, who is the general manager of Clovernook Country Club in Cincinnati, said she had to push through the final stretch.
“We’ve had a mild summer so the humidity is tough,” said Bergsma. “On the last few holes you just try to hang in there a little bit.”
Bergsma had three bogeys and two birdies on the day and said her preparation for competitive events is usually unpredictable.
“When it’s a quick nine holes it’s usually when a member is like ‘Hey do you have your clubs?’ said Bergsma. “But it’s one of those things that you just put into perspective and adjusting the expectations and controlling your emotions. So at some points you’re like ‘holy cow this is awesome.’”
Bergsma made sure to give credit where it was due and thanked friends Marci Bozarth and Jennifer Cully for dishing out a tip during their practice round this week.
“I have to give my friends some credit or else I’d be in big trouble,” Bergsma said with a laugh. “They gave me a little pointer on my iron shots so I have to give them credit because they’ll harass me forever.”
NICE AND STEADY
In the Senior Division, Jan Kleiman (McCordsville, Ind.) grabbed the first-round lead after posting a bogey-free 4-under 68 and sits atop the division leaderboard ahead of Dede Cusimano (La Quinta, Calif.), Allison Finney (Bermuda Dunes, Calif.) and AnneMarie Palli (Scottsdale, Ariz.) who all shot respective rounds of 1-under 71. And Kleiman is no stranger to strong starts in this Championship. She held the first-round lead a year ago after opening with a 65 at Chateau Elan. She would finish third behind Carolyn Hill and 2013 champion Dede Cusimano. Kleiman said the day was a straightforward round and was able to convert on her birdie chances.
“Kind of steady,” said Kleiman. “I didn’t feel like I hit the ball great but when I had the birdie opportunities I made them. I had two good up and downs on 17 and 18 so that was kind of nice to hold a good round together. You don’t want to give back a good round when you work hard to get it.”
She rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the par 5 3rd hole and had 15 feet or less on her other birdies on Nos. 7, 13, 15.
The LPGA Teaching Pro based out of Ironwood Country Club in Fishers, Ind. called nearby Lakeland for almost 25 years and said getting used to Bermuda grass again is a challenge.
“The greens are a little tough,” said Kleiman. “I have been away from Bermuda for a while and there’s a lot of grain and think I was fortunate to get a couple in today. It’s huge- like I said I was down here for a long, long time so you know what to do but you have to hit the shots.”
A T&CP member since 1997, Kleiman has made ‘over a dozen’ appearances in the National Championship and says the opportunity to compete is something she thrives on.
“It does and I love it. I still until this day play in every tournament I could,” said Kleiman. “We get very excited. Sometimes that’s good sometimes not so good.”
SECOND ROUND TEE TIMES
• First wave tees off at 7:30am ET
• Second wave tees off at 11:40am ET
“It’s always easy to get busy and think am I really going to go somewhere and play competitively? But I just think that this is why we got into the game and you need to go out and reconnect with some friends and get some good ideas. A lot of it is networking. I got into this for competitive golf and remember that and keep going.”
– Louisa Bergsma on playing in the T&CP National Championship
“I’m the happiest person in the world that I get to play in this event. Last year was the first year because you opened it to PGA professionals and it was the first time I played nationally in 25 years. Being a player, that was really exciting for me…I wish you would do it for four days!” PGA Professional Susie Meyers (73) on the opportunity to play in the T&CP National
–PGA Professional Susie Meyers (73) on the opportunity to play in the T&CP National Championship