The veteran player kept her patience on the tight, desert course, hitting 18 greens and 12 fairways to snatch a one-shot lead over Linzi Morton of Alloa, Scotland and Kori Johns of Austin, Texas, who both fired 69 (-3) in the afternoon.
'I would like to win on any golf course,' said Marino, of Scottsdale, Ariz., who has never won professionally since bouncing back and forth from the LPGA Tour and Futures Golf Tour since 1994. 'And the last time I held a lead in a tournament was so long ago, I cant remember it.'
Play was painfully slow in Fridays opening round on the 6,342-yard par-72 course on the U.S. Army base of Ft. Bliss. Marinos group crept in at five hours and 20 minutes and play was jammed on several tricky holes. Missed fairways into the desert sand and rock were penal and players who kept their ball in play were the ones who opted for control.
Still, bad bounces on good shots were costly. Last weeks Futures Tour winner, Stacy Prammanasudh of Enid, Okla., discovered the rough after her approach shot on the par-5 14th hole hit a sprinkler head and bounded over the green and beyond an adjacent tee box. She was forced to take an unplayable lie.
'I thought boy, here we go,' said Prammanasudh, who took bogey, but still finished the round at 2-under-par 70. She is tied with 26-year LPGA Tour veteran Vicki Fergon of La Quinta, Calif., former Duke All-American Candy Hannemann of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and second-year Futures Tour professional Patricia Martinson of Marion, Iowa.
With strong winds on the forecast for the weekend, Johns, whose group just beat the sunset in Fridays first round, smiled at the thought of 50 mph winds.
'Im a Texas girl and I feel at home here,' she said. 'Im used to the wind. Bring it on.'
Fergon, scored the 2003 tournaments first hole-in-one on the par-3 15th hole. She hit her grip 8-iron from 140 yards into the cup. This was Fergons ninth career ace.
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