Crowded Leaderboard at Futures Tour Event
'It's shaping up to be a good weekend,' said Stephanie George of Myerstown, Pa., who was the first player of the half dozen to card a 67 on the old-fashioned 5,973-yard tract that features narrow tree-lined fairways and tiny greens.
George would later share the lead with three other players from the morning rounds. Playing in the same group was Beth Hermes of Dixon, Ill., and third-week rookie pro Perry Swenson of Charlotte, N.C., who both carded their own 67s to join George for the lead. Rookie Hye Jung Choi of Seoul, Korea added the final 67 of the morning to grab her share of the lead.
Hot and humid conditions ushered in afternoon thunderstorms and play was suspended at 1:51 p.m. By the time play resumed at 3:40 p.m., much of the humidity had lifted and players in the afternoon were greeted by more receptive greens and less oppressive summertime weather.
Veteran professional Kelly Cap, a non-exempt LPGA Tour member of Youngstown, Ohio, was the first of two players in the afternoon to grab a share of the lead. The 32-year-old player hit 14 greens and rolled in 27 putts in a bogey-free round that included five birdies for her best start in six years on the Futures Tour.
'My short game was really good today and if you can stay patient, there are a ton of birdie holes out there,' said Cap, who is still looking for her first professional win. 'The course is very scorable, so you have to make as many birdies as you can.'
Playing in the last group of the day and finishing her round at nearly 8:30 p.m., Jamie Stevenson of Mayfield, Utah, posted the final 67 of the opening round and said she spent the weather delay taking a nap in her car out in the parking lot.
'This was the first time in a long time when I felt relaxed and at ease, and that has always been my difficulty,' said Stevenson, 28, in her fourth Futures Tour season. 'I think I've had to get beaten up out here to learn that this is just a game. It's not everything. And that helped me today.'
Stevenson used her length to play Lost Creek's par-five holes in three-under-par. So did Choi, who carded an eagle-3 on the par-five 13th hole when she hit the green in two shots and drained her 12-foot putt for eagle.
'I'm playing very close to the way I want to play,' said Choi, 20, who not only used her length to trim three shots on the par-fives, but also used a cooperative putter with 28 putts in her round. Choi has finished second twice this season, losing each in a playoff.
'This feels really good, because I've only been out here for three weeks,' said Swenson, 22, who graduated from the University of Texas a month ago. 'At least I know I have the game to compete out here.'
Defending champion Danielle Downey of Spencerport, N.Y., carded a four-under-par 68 to join a four-way tie with Julie Turner of Skaneateles, N.Y., Naree Song of Seoul, Korea, and Jan Dowling of Bradford, Ontario. Seven players, including Nicole Castrale of Palm Desert , Calif. , who has won the last two tournaments on the Futures Tour, are tied at three-under 69.
'I've defended a title once before in junior golf, so I'm not afraid,' said Downey, who carded a bogey-free, four-birdie round. 'I have a lot of great memories here and I know I can play well here on this course. The leaders are going to go low every day and I really think there's a 10 under out there.'
It's safe to say that an entire tournament field is hoping Downey is right in that prediction this weekend.
Saturday's second round of the 54-hole event will begin at 8 a.m., off the first and tenth tees. The leaders will tee off at 2:10 p.m.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
Well, this is a one new one.
According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:
“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”
Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.
“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.
The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.
“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”
The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.
Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.
Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.
PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation
Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.
The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
The statement reads:
The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.
The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.
The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.
The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.