GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, NJ (AP) — Australian rookie Stephanie Kyriacou shot a bogey-free, 6-under 65 on Friday to take the lead in the first round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.
Kyriacou, 21, a double winner of the Ladies European Tour, started at 7:15 a.m. in the first group of the day from No. 1 on the Bay Course, before the delicate wind began to blow. Reed Bay. At 6,197 yards the course is one of the shortest on the circuit, but the strong breeze and small undulating greens help provide a test.
“The greens are quite challenging,” Kyriacou said. “They’re quite firm and they’re fast, so it’s a bit difficult to stick (punches). But it wasn’t as windy as the practice rounds, so that was a positive.
Swede Frida Kinhult was a blow back. Top-ranked Jin Young Ko was 67 with Brooke Henderson, Dottie Ardina and New Jersey player Marina Alex. Alex won the Palos Verdes Championship in early May in California for his second tour title.
Twenty-time LPGA Tour winner Cristie Kerr and former local teacher Meaghan Francella were part of the 68-year-old group.
Kyriacou benefited from the advice of the LPGA Hall of Famer and fellow Australian Karrie Webb earlier in the week. Webb, 47, a 2013 Shoprite winner with 41 career wins, met Kyriacou on the practice green on Tuesday and offered some advice.
It paid off. Kyriacou had six birdies in her bogey-free round.
“I just asked her what she did when she had nerve problems in her prime. I just asked her how she was coping and she gave me some advice,” Kyriacou said. kind of just said between shots to close your eyes and breathe and listen to the birds and all that. Just to take your mind off it. It’s so simple, but it’s very helpful.
Webb shot a 73 in his first tour start since January.
Kinhult, who was the highest-ranked amateur in 2019, also started early. The former Florida State standout started at 8:26 a.m. on the No. 10. She closed on a high, eagle on the par-5 ninth hole to close in on a Kyriacou shot.
“I watched the standings all day,” Kinhult said. “I always do. I like to have a bit of knowledge about what’s going on there. I always try to play my own game, but I saw 6 under so I tried to catch that one , which was a good motivation. There are still two days left, so anything can happen.
The fairways and stands were overflowing with fans who celebrated the return of the tournament to its usual early June slot. The event took place in early October the previous two years due to scheduling conflicts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the loudest ovations were for local favorite Alex, who made her LPGA Tour debut at the ShopRite Classic in 2012.
Francella is playing in her first LPGA Tour tournament in nine years, also a fan favorite. Now a professional teacher at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, she has spent the past two years helping her mother battle breast cancer.
“I’m not going to quit my day job, I know that,” Francella said. “But I just try to enjoy it and have fun. I have a lot of people here watching me and supporting me. I spent a lot of time in my career not enjoying it. I really have a lot of fun there.
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