KNIGHT HOLDS 18-HOLE LEAD IN CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION
Allie Knight (Knoxville, Tenn.) carded an early-round 68 (-3) to lead the Championship division after the first day of the LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by Voice Caddie. A PGA Teaching Professional at Fairways and Greens Golf Center in Knoxville, Knight used her workplace’s name as her competitive mindset.
“I had four birdies and one bogey, so I played pretty well,” said Knight. “I hit a lot of good shots and I think I only chipped maybe two times. I also hit a lot of greens – just hit it on the green, lagged it up there and if it went in it went in. I played kind of steady fairway-green, didn’t really get in a lot of trouble or anything and just kept it straight and hit it well.”
From competing on the Symetra Tour, where she made 13 career cuts, to making her LPGA Tour debut in the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, Knight is clearly up for the challenge again.
“It means the world to be able to go and do it again, that would be awesome,” said Knight. “Two more rounds and it’s kind of like an endurance race. I just have the same game plan for the next two days, just fairways and greens, and hopefully it goes in.”
Ashley Grier (Villanova, Pa.), Assistant PGA Professional at Overbrook Golf Club, sits in solo second at -2, with two players tied for third at -1: LPGA/PGA Professional Stephanie Connelly Eiswerth (Fleming Island, Fla.) and PGA Professional Alisa Rodriguez (Austin, Texas).
Eiswerth, a two-time LPGA Professionals National Champion, is familiar with Kingsmill Resort, having played the Monday Qualifier for the LPGA Tour’s Pure Silk Championship along with some junior events with the Mid-Atlantic PGA. Having grown up on bentgrass, she’s hoping to see even more of her putts roll in over the next two days.
“I started off with a birdie on the first hole, so that was pretty nice,” said Eiswerth. “I was getting up and down and I was putting really well. I’ve been rolling it good. It’s nice to be on the bent again and it just feels comfortable.
“I’ve been playing a few more tournaments this year, which is really helpful,” added Eiswerth. “As defending champ, you always put a little more pressure on yourself and I really just wanted to get off to a good start today. I wanted to have fun, make good, committed choices and just go with it, and we did that, so it worked out. It’s good to be here and the scores are pretty good, so it’s nice to be in the mix after the first day.”
The top-eight finishers in the Championship division will earn exemptions into the 2022 KPMG PGA Women’s Championship, to be held June 21-26 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
HIRST HUNTING A FOUR-PEAT IN CHALLENGE DIVISION
Charlaine Hirst (Pinehurst, N.C.) picked up where she left off on Sunday with a 3-over 74 to lead the division by one shot over fellow LPGA Professionals Louise Ball (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Stephanie Peareth (Homestead, Fla.). Going for her fourth straight National Championship title, Hirst is soaking up the whole experience.
“I’m just thrilled that we’re playing, because I really didn’t think we’d have this opportunity,” said Hirst. “I’m thrilled that my pro-am team came out and followed me around and they’ll be here tomorrow, and then my daughter’s caddying for me. That’s just a bonus, but I’m glad to be out here with my daughter on the bag.”
“I hit the ball fantastically well, but I couldn’t hit a putt. So, make some putts,” Hirst added with a laugh when asked about her game plan for the next two days. Her second-round prep will also include some bonding time with her daughter, her caddie for the week.
“We’re going shopping. My deal for the caddie was to go shopping now, so that’s what we’re doing. Just to go out there and have fun, I’m really just out enjoying it.”
AULENTI LEADS SENIOR DIVISION
Angela Aulenti (Fairfield, Conn.) might be the only competitor hoping for windy conditions to remain at Kingsmill Resort. With strong gusts during Sunday’s first round, she carded an even-par 71 to lead by one.
“Playing is not number one, but I decided that this year I was going to give it a go since we didn’t get to play last year,” said Aulenti, Head Golf Professional at Sterling Farms Golf Shop for the past 27 years. “[My game plan] is to do the same thing for two more days. I’m at the end of my career a little bit, so I committed to try and play a little bit more, practice a little bit more, and get in a little better shape. It paid off.”
Barbara Moxness (Rio Verde, Ariz.), Barbara Scherbak (West Palm Beach, Fla.) and Margie Muzik (Naperville, Ill.) sit tied for second after shooting one-over-par rounds of 72.
Moxness, a Life member of the LPGA Professionals and the 2018 Senior division champion, is focusing on finding her process for this week and the upcoming U.S. Senior Women’s Open. “It’s fabulous to be back playing. It’s been two years, and it’s a little scary at first because you haven’t done it in a while, but then you kind of get back into the swing of it. You can’t really control the results, so I’m just trying to get in my process and see what I can do with it,” said Moxness. “It’s great to be back, it’s wonderful to see all these people and all these great competitors here, so it’s fun.”
The top-eight finishers in the Senior division will qualify for the 2022 Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank as well as any competitors over age 45 who finish in the top 10 in the Championship division. Additionally, the top-five finishers in the Championship division and top-three finishers in the Senior division at least 50 years of age will qualify for the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
BARTHOLOMEW RETURNS TO KINGSMILL
Jean Bartholomew (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) is no stranger to Kingsmill Resort. The last time the LPGA Professionals National Championship was held at The River Course in 2009, she captured her first title by firing a record-setting 62 in the final round. Now a four-time national champion, Bartholomew also competed at Kingsmill five times during her career on the LPGA Tour.
“I like this golf course from playing it on Tour, it’s a great course,” said Bartholomew. “I had my old yardage book from the Tour – from about 2003 – which I thought I could use all the way through. I took a look on one green where it said it was 24-deep, and I’m like, ‘The green is 37-deep on the pin sheet.’ So I thought, ‘I better not look at this book anymore.’ They have made some of the greens bigger and a little less severe than they used to be back then.”
Bartholomew, an LPGA teaching professional at Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Harbor, N.Y. and PGA National in Florida, sits in a tie for fifth after an opening-round 73 (+2).
“I would have liked to go a little lower, but it’s okay. I’m happy with the way I ended, and it was just one of those ‘get back into the flow’ rounds. I try to take it a day at a time because I don’t want to put expectations on myself. I’m a perfectionist and that always kills me. But I’m hoping to improve every day and get in the flow, especially my tee shots; just to get myself to get up and rip it and not steer it,” said Bartholomew. “We also have the U.S. Senior Women’s Open next week, so I felt like this was a great way to build into that. I’d also obviously like to play well here – I’ve just got to get under par.”
Her return to Williamsburg, Va. also brings back fond memories for Bartholomew. “This was always fun because my dad’s best friend from when he was in grammar school, he and his wife lived on the 7th fairway, so I always stayed with them. My parents used to come down and visit when we had the tournament here, so it’s kind of nostalgic that way,” said Bartholomew. “I’m going to go visit with Barbara, his wife, this afternoon and say hi to her. And I might go to Jamestown later, just because I love the history here. If you’re a history buff, this is a great place to be. So that’s all about the nostalgia.”