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Winds Reign In New Mexico

Futures TourALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Russy Gulyanamitta of Rayong, Thailand was all smiles by early afternoon Friday. The leader in the clubhouse carded a 3-under-par score of 69 during the morning rounds of the $95,000 Isleta Casino & Resort FUTURES Golf Classic and sat safely atop the leader board as constant gusts buffeted the Isleta Eagle Golf Course.
But those 50-mph gusting blasts progressively pummeled players in the afternoon rounds. There was an average difference of five shots between the morning and afternoon waves.
'Today was all about getting up and down for par,' said defending champion, Linda Ishii, who carded a 75 for her opening round in the Tour's largest purse of the year.
'By the time I get home to Florida next week, my backswing is going to be a foot long,' groaned Lisa Hall of Stoke-on-Trent, England, who posted a 79 for her wind-affected effort.
Gulyanamitta's sizzling opening round was paced by a steady performance that included 27 putts and a 15-yard chip-in on the 14th hole. The Thai player admitted that wind play typically is not her strength because her homeland is hot and humid with little wind. Playing in gusts has been something she's learned since turning pro in 2001 and joining the Futures Tour.
'We don't have wind at home, but I like to play in it because it's fun,' said Gulyanamitta, who won the Futures Tour's Coleman Golf Classic in Wichita two years ago and captured the Order of Merit for the Asian Women's Tour earlier this year. 'The course is in really good shape this week but the wind has made it difficult to hold the greens.'
Only two other players posted scores under par Friday. Kristin Dufour of Austin, Texas and Erika Wicoff of Hartford City, Ind., both carded scores of 71 (-1) in Friday's late-morning tee times. Kori Johns of Austin, Texas, shot an even-par 72.
But for the afternoon tee times, starting at 12:30 PM, the conditions grew considerably tougher. The wind never let up and 73 (+1), posted by Jessica Polus of West Palm Beach, Fla., was the best score from the afternoon rounds. Catherine Cartwright of Bonita Springs, Fla., recorded a 74, and Young Jo of Suwan, Korea, posted a 75, for the remaining top scores Friday afternoon.
'I was having fun watching the mountains disappear from the dust storm out there,' said Wicoff, who has played for six years on the LPGA Tour and is back on the Futures Tour trying to regain her exempt LPGA status.
Dufour, a first-year pro, used 30 putts and a boatload of patience to post her sub-par round. 'I'd get up there for a birdie putt and everything was shaking,' said Dufour, who backed off seven putts to wait for gusts to subside. 'But you just have to go through your normal routine.'
Dufour scored an eagle-4 on the par-5, 499-yard eighth hole. The former University of Texas player went for the green in two and watched her shot take a big hop to 25 feet. She drained the putt for eagle.
But even the leaders, who had the benefit of slightly easier morning conditions, wrestled with club selection. Gulyanamitta, for example, used a pitching wedge to reach the fifth green on her approach shot during Thursday's pro-am, but was forced to play nearly the same shot with a 5-iron in Friday's opening round.
By sunset, when the final groups dragged in, Gulyanamitta's 3-under 69 in the first round was as strong as the Albuquerque wind.
Tee times for Saturday's second round start at 8 AM, with the leaders teeing off at 2:20 PM.