Mehra in Front on Futures


Futures TourQUEENSTOWN, Md. -- Veteran touring pro Smriti Mehra must have been playing a different golf course than the rest of the 144-player field today at the $65,000 Hunters Oak Futures Golf Classic. Mehra finished an insufferably hot and humid day with a sizzling round of 6-under-par 66 to take the tournament lead.
'I'm very, very pleased and I'll take a score like this anytime,' said Mehra of Calcutta, India, a seven-year member of the LPGA Tour and winner of the Futures Tour's event in Wichita, Kan., earlier this season. 'I hit it really straight today and that's the key to this golf course because it's not easy to read the greens.'
Hunters Oak Golf Club played tough in today's first round. Mehra was the only player to score in the 60s on the par-72, 6,370-yard links-style layout. Kylie Pratt of Mackay, Australia finished the day in second place with her 2 under par round of 70. Known for her preference for hot weather, Pratt seemed undeterred by the sometimes-stifling humidity that caused one player to collapse in the heat and withdraw from the tournament.
'It was hot, humid and beautiful today,' said Pratt, who carded four birdies, two bogeys and scrambled for par saves at least four times from 'awful positions.'
But Pratt, like Mehra, avoided the dreaded three-putt on a course laden with undulating greens and challenging pin positions.
'You expect that here just from the severity of the greens,' said Pratt. 'But today, when I needed to make my putts, I made them.'
And so did Mehra, who says she hasn't played well since early July. The big hitter neutralized some of the longer holes and scored an eagle-3 on the par-5 12th, using a driver and 3-wood to set up a 10-foot eagle putt on the 495-yard hole. The veteran pro greeted her stellar round with a 'better-late-than-never' attitude.
'I shot myself in the foot this year and I let too many things bother me,' said Mehra, who joined the 2004 Futures Tour after 2003 injuries lowered her playing status on the LPGA Tour. 'This is not a golf course that fits my game. I'm just pissed off because I've hit it well for the last six or seven weeks and putted like a dog.'
But Mehra, known to speak her mind candidly, made a recent discovery along with Orlando-based swing coach Chip Koehlke that may have made a difference for the frustrated pro. Mehra says she is flat-footed and has a tendency to rock back on her heels in her golf swing. Her coach made that observation and encouraged her to position her stance more up on her shoelaces. That simple tweaking put Mehra in all but one fairway today and on 15 greens in regulation.
Brittney Bacon of Minot, N.D. was the first of seven players to shoot 1-under-par 71, but even Bacon struggled to read the undulating greens, recording three putts from 39 feet on the 18th hole.
'It's the end of the season and everybody is tired,' said Bacon. 'And it's hard to narrow your focus.'
Eleven players tied at even-par 72, including amateur Ashley Grier of Hagerstown, Md., a rising junior at the University of Central Florida and LPGA Tour veteran Missie Berteotti of Pittsburgh, Pa. Also in that group were top-ranked Jimin Kang of Seoul, Korea and fourth-ranked Aram Cho, also of Seoul, who both moved into striking position for Saturday's second round.
Tee times for the second round will begin at 8 a.m., off the first and 10th tees with the leaders going off at 2:09 p.m. The 54-hole, full-field tournament is presented by the Presidio Corporation.
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