The first of eight rounds in LPGA Q-Series is complete with three women sharing the lead. Britney Yada, Manon De Roey and Arpichaya Yubol signed for low 7-under par 64, taking a one-shot edge over the rest of the field.
Yada, who was exempt into Q-Series after finishing the Epson Tour season at No. 22 in the Ascensus Race for the Card, almost went bogey free to open the week. The 31-year-old carded eight birdies and a lone bogey on the day.
“I chipped in on the first hole, so I was like, okay, that's a good start,” said Yada. “I just putted super well today. I made a lot of like mid-range putts, and I just told myself if I could just get my irons within makable range I had a good chance of making them.”
After missing the signup deadline over the summer for Stage II, Yada feared she wouldn’t have the opportunity to compete for an LPGA Tour card this season. An Epson Tour victory at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout not only put her in a comfortable position to be exempt this week, but also gave her confidence that she still carries over two months later.
“That [win] really helped the confidence a lot,” said Yada. “I finally believe that I can do it and that I belong here. I kind of looked back on that today actually, like you can do this, you can get through. It turned out to be a good day.”
De Roey, a Ladies European Tour (LET) member who was exempt based on the Order of Merit, was feeling both the excitement and nerves during her Q-Series debut. The Belgian went 1-under par through her first four holes, carding three birdies and a double bogey.
“It's my first time playing at Q-School for the LPGA, so I'm just excited to be here,” said De Roey. “It was a bit of a crazy start.”
After hitting into a hazard and double bogeying No. 3 of the RTJ Trail at Magnolia Grove Falls Course, De Roey finished her round with a clean scorecard. She bounced back with six more birdies on the day, nine total. The 30-year-old credits her personality, as well as her friend and caddie for the ability to let go of bad shots and move on.
“I feel like as a player I'm pretty calm, so I'm easily forgetting about the bad shots,” said De Roey. “With my caddie, Laura, today we had a lot of fun. We have a lot of fun on the course, and we laugh a lot, so it's fun. It helps.”
Like Yada, Yubol also went almost bogey-free. The Thai carded eight birdies on the day, five of which were consecutive to finish her round. Unfortunately, she walked off the last hole of the Crossings Course with a bogey.
“I just enjoyed my game because this is first round,” said Yubol. “I played my game and my plan on every hole and just smiled and was happy with my caddie [throughout the round].”
Yubol said she struggled with the cold weather this morning, which is very different than the warm Thailand weather she’s used to playing in. As the day went on, she found that everything was working well for her, especially her putter.
Laura Wearn and Lauren Hartlage follow close behind the leading trio, rounding out the top five at 6-under. Wearn carded five birdies and a lone eagle, while Hartlage bounced back from her opening bogey with seven birdies.
A total of 60 players shot even-par or better, with notable names including Su Oh (-4), Bianca Pagdanganan (-4), Karen Chung (-2), Alexa Pano (E) and Kim Kaufman (E).
Kim Kaufman (E, T39) on a hole-in-one on No. 6:
“I hit a five iron and didn’t hit it super solid. It was cold and a little into the wind, so I was just begging it go get over the bunker. It landed on [the green] and we saw it roll and looked like it disappeared, but you can’t see it well enough to know if it went in, so nobody said anything. It was a bit anticlimactic to say the least.”
Nataliya Guseva (-5, T6) on a bogey-free round:
“It was awesome. I would say I just enjoyed playing today. Kind of took my time. I wasn't really rushing because I know it's going to be like a marathon of golf, so I'm just enjoying here, playing as just a practice round, because, I mean, eight rounds of golf is just a lot.”
Heather Lin (-5, T6) on her feelings about round one:
“Obviously today was pretty challenging to start with. Really cold and really wet. The conditions were not very easy. I was telling myself to hit all the fairways you can because you have preferred lies, hit all the greens possible and give myself a lot of birdie chances.”