Castrale Grabs Lead on Futures Tour

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Futures TourSAINT ANNE, Ill. -- If any player on the Futures Golf Tour is riding a wave of momentum, it's Nicole Castrale, who grabbed the first-round lead of the $70,000.
 
Quality Concepts Kankakee Futures Golf Classic with a blistering score of 6-under-par 66 and a front-nine score of 29 that ties the Tour's nine-hole record.
 
'Right now, it's just clicking,' said Castrale, 26, of Palm Desert, Calif., who carded a 29 on the front and 37 on the back nine. 'You have to just go with it and not ask questions.'
 
Castrale was the model of patience in today's first round at Kankakee Elks Country Club. Starting on the par-37 back nine, she posted nine straight pars and kept her cool even after missing birdie chances from 4 and 6 feet.
 
'I kept hitting good shots and Craig [her husband/caddie] told me to stay patient,' said Castrale, who won her first professional title at last week's tournament in Indiana. 'The greens are so difficult here that you have to stay patient. I knew I was rolling them well and that I just needed a little luck.'
 
Castrale registered more than luck when she rattled in six birdies and no bogeys on the front nine of the 6,257-yard course. Making the nine-hole turn, she birdied No. 1 from 25 feet, then added a string of four straight birdies on holes 4 through 7 from a range of 4 feet to 30 feet. Her final birdie of the day came on the ninth and final hole when she drained a 10-footer on the par-35 front nine. For the day, she recorded 29 putts and hit 17 greens and 10 fairways.
 
Castrale's 29 ties four other Futures Tour players who broke 30 for nine holes. They are: Peggy Kirsch, in 1989; Marilyn Lovander, in 1990; Lorena Ochoa, in 2002; and Sue Ginter-Brooker, in 2002.
 
On a rolling 1920s hand-sculpted course touted for the severity of its greens, 36 players navigated their way back to the clubhouse at even-par 72 or better. Three players carded rounds of 4-under-par 68 to move into a tie for second. Sun Young Yoo of Seoul, Korea and Meaghan Francella of Port Chester, N.Y., posted their scores in the morning rounds, while Julie Tvede of Copenhagen, Denmark, carded the low round of the afternoon.
 
'If you hit it in the middle of those greens, you're not looking at much more than 15 feet with the putter,' said Francella, 23, who tied for third last week in Indiana. 'I didn't think there would be many under-par scores today, so I'm happy with the way I played.'
 
Teenage rookie Yoo used only 26 putts on the treacherously undulating greens and managed her game strategically with solid iron play.
 
'My first putts were mostly uphill,' said Yoo, 18, a member of the 2004 Korean National Team. 'My score is better than I thought, so I am happy.'
 
Tvede carded five birdies and one bogey in the afternoon, hitting 16 greens and missing only two fairways. She used 29 putts for her opening round. The former University of Tulsa player called the rolling greens 'surprisingly easier today than the other days' of practice rounds before rain softened the greens on Thursday.
 
Natalie Wong of Montebello, Calif., and Courtney Wood of Brentwood, Tenn., tied at three-under 69, while five players are deadlocked at 2-under-par 70. They are: Anna Rawson of Adelaide, Australia, top-ranked Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, Jin Young Pak of Kang Leoung, Korea, Allison Hanna of Portland, Ore., and Sarah Huarte of Shingle Springs, Calif.
 
Nine players are tied at 1-under 71, while 16 players carded even-par opening rounds of 72.