LITTLE SLEEP FOR LEE
Alison Lee may win the award for the least amount of sleep this week. The 23-year-old from Valencia, Calif., was the last player into the ISPS Handa Vic Open, getting the call on Sunday afternoon when Brooke Henderson withdrew due to illness. As the week’s first alternate and already into next week’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open field, Lee had thankfully already booked her plane ticket to Australia after competing in a pro-am in the Bahamas last weekend.
“I landed Tuesday morning here, drove down, took like a two-hour nap and played eight holes,” said Lee, who still has not seen the Beach Course. “Then the next day I wasn't feeling too well still, I was kind of sick, so I played like about 15 holes on Wednesday.”
The lack of sleep or course exposure certainly did not hinder Lee, who shot a 5-under 68 on the Creek Course on Thursday and sits tied for fifth. After an admittedly tough 2018, a season that saw her compete in the second stage of Q School and the inaugural Q Series to regain her LPGA Tour card, Lee is ready for a fresh start in 2019.
“I struggled a lot mentally the last couple years, just put a lot of pressure on myself and just wasn't myself,” said Lee. “I took a lot of time off this offseason especially after Q School to kind of regroup and just come out here and have fun. Coming into this week I didn't even think I would play, so I'm just really thankful to be here and to be able to compete.”
JOHNSON LEADS AFTER 18 HOLES AT ISPS HANDA VIC OPEN
Felicity Johnson made the Creek Course at 13th Beach Golf Links look rather easy on Thursday. With a bogey-free 8-under 65, Johnson, a member of the Ladies European Tour, holds the lead after 18 holes of the ISPS Handa Vic Open.
“I'm going to sound a bit cocky, but it was really easy,” said Johnson, who hails from England. “I hit 17 greens in regulation, birdied three of the par 5s, so there's kind of a couple of almost gimme birdies. And for me if I roll the ball on the greens well, I'll shoot a good score and that's what I did today.”
A trio of players sit two strokes behind Johnson at -6. Australia’s Su Oh shot a 67 on the par-73 Creek Course, while American Kim Kaufman and Canadian Anne-Catherine Tanguay each shot 66 on the par-72 Beach Course.
Defending champion Minjee Lee shot a 1-under 72 on the Creek Course and sits tied for 53rd, while Australian legend Karrie Webb returned an even-par 73 on the Creek Course and is tied for 78th.
In a format unique to world professional golf, the ISPS Handa Vic Open is a leader in sports equality. Staged at 13th Beach Golf Links on Australia’s Bellarine Peninsula, men and women play on the same courses, at the same time, for equal prize money. The ISPS Handa Vic Open is jointly sanctioned by the LPGA Tour, the ALPG, the European Tour and the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia.
JOHNSON ENJOYING GOLFING TRIP AROUND VICTORIA
Felicity Johnson sure has enjoyed her last few weeks in Victoria, Australia. Johnson, a native of Birmingham, England, has been touring around Victoria, grabbing two victories on the PGA of Australia’s PGA Pro-Am Series as a great warm-up for this week at 13th Beach Golf Links.
“Australia's like England but with sunshine, so we obviously feel pretty at home here,” Johnson joked when asked about the English success at this event and across Australia. “Yeah, we do play a lot of these courses at home, kind of links style and a bit of wind, we grew up playing that, so yeah, it feels familiar almost.”
The familiarity paid off for Johnson on Thursday, as she returned a bogey-free 65 to grab the first-round lead.
“It's the first day so there's a long way to go still,” said Johnson, who played on the LPGA Tour from 2013-17 before returning to the Ladies European Tour in 2018. “But I mean, if I can play anywhere near as solid as that the next three days, I feel I'll be in contention come Sunday.”
ACE FOR OH
The par-3 15th at the Creek Course quickly became Su Oh’s favorite hole on Thursday. She rolled in a hole-in-one with a 6-iron from 160 yards for her seventh ace in competition and first since the third round of the 2016 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.
“I just thought it just trickled past the pin and hopefully was a good shot,” said Oh, who had five aces during her competitive amateur career. “Paula (Creamer) was just like, I think it went in, and I was like, Really? There was this one guy near the green saying it like just rolled in, so I had one guy see it. That was good enough.”
Rolex Rankings No. 291 Felicity Johnson (65 Creek, -6)
- Johnson’s first-round 65 is tied for the lowest round of her LPGA Tour career; she shot a 65 in the second rounds of both the 2013 and 2017 Manulife LPGA Classic
- This is the first time that Johnson has held a portion of the lead following any round at an LPGA Tour event
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 17 of 17 greens, with 28 putts
- Johnson played full time on the LPGA Tour from 2013-2017; her best career finish is T19 at the 2014 Canadian Pacific Women’s Open
- Johnson returned to the Ladies European Tour full time in 2018; she finished second at the 2018 Hero Women’s Indian Open
Rolex Rankings No. 78 Su Oh (67 Creek, -6)
- Oh’s first-round 65 is tied for the third lowest first round of her LPGA Tour career
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, with 26 putts
- Oh is in her fourth LPGA Tour season; her best career finish is second at the 2016 Kingsmill Championship and she has eight top-10 finishes, including four in 2018
Rolex Rankings No. 310 Anne-Catherine Tanguay (66 Beach, -6)
- Tanguay’s first-round 66 is the lowest round of her LPGA Tour career; she shot 67 three times in 2018, most recently at the 2018 Cambia Portland Classic
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens, with 32 putts
- Tanguay is in her third full LPGA Tour season and spent 2017 primarily on the Epson Tour; her best career LPGA Tour finish is T16 at the 2018 Cambia Portland Classic
- Tanguay, a member of Golf Canada’s Young Pro Squad, is a 2014 graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a degree in management and accounting
Rolex Rankings No. 241 Kim Kaufman (66 Beach, -6)
- Kaufman’s first-round 66 is tied for the third lowest round of the LPGA Tour career
- She hit 10 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens, with 29 putts
- Kaufman is in her sixth season on the LPGA Tour; her best finish is T2 at the 2015 Blue Bay LPGA and she has 10 top-10 finishes
- Kaufman is a 2013 graduate of Texas Tech University with a degree in political science