McALLEN, Texas, April 27, 2007 – Indiana’s Danah Ford called today’s first round of the $75,000 Jalapeno Duramed FUTURES Golf Classic a “surreal” kind of day in which she focused on breathing, as much as believing.
“I’m just really calm,” said Ford, a third-year pro from Indianapolis, who fired a four-under-par opening round of 68 today at Palm View Golf Course. “I’ve been concentrating on feeling my rhythm and not getting ahead of myself.”
Ford didn’t play competitive golf for seven months last season as she nursed a herniated disk in her neck. She sat out from August until December, then reinjured it in January. But she bounced back in time to prepare for the 2007 season. Playing in only 10 tournaments in 2006, the former Indiana University collegian was determined to turn her game around and prove herself as a pro this year.
She took her first steps in that direction today as the only player in the 60s on the wind-swept South Texas course. Ford hit 16 greens in regulation and used only 27 putts in a round that produced five birdies and a single bogey.
“I think I’m due,” said Ford, who recorded two wins in collegiate competition, including the 2004 Big Ten Championship. “I had a lot of difficult moments last year. Being patient and just knowing that I deserve to be here now is big.”
Four players are two shots off the lead at two-under-par 70 after the opening round. Rookie Sofie Andersson of Angelholm, Sweden, Rachel Bailey of Faulconbridge, Australia, two-time 2006 winner Ashley Prange of Noblesville, Ind., and former LPGA Tour member Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, all moved into a share of second.
“I guess I can credit the Swedish Golf Federation for taking us to England and Scotland twice a year since I was age 16,” said Andersson, a former collegian at the University of California-Berkeley. “Compared to that, this wind wasn’t that bad.”
Andersson said she didn’t hit many full shots today in an effort to keep the ball below the wind. The Swede hit 14 greens and missed only one fairway, carding four birdies and two three-putt bogeys.
Certainly, the wind was a factor on the 6,379-yard, par-72 course. In the morning, players added two to three extra clubs in the wind, which gusted to 26 mph. By the afternoon, the wind had decreased slightly, but kept the field guessing.
With the wind favoring all but one of the par-five holes, Bailey said she used the wind to her advantage to try to reach the long holes in two shots. After a day of “more positive self-talk,” Bailey -- nursing a sore throat and nasty head cold – had a few choice words for herself during her round.
“I told myself over every single shot that it’s OK to hit good shots, to play well and to hole out putts,” said Bailey, a fourth-year professional who played collegiately at New Mexico State University.
Still looking for her first win of 2007, Prange said she adopted the same color-coded tactic in her yardage book used by Payne Stewart the year he won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Country Club. With red, yellow and green magic markers, Prange shaded her yardage book course layout accordingly: green, outlining the section of the hole where she could let it rip; yellow, to denote where she should use caution; and red, to show an area of the course to be avoided at all cost.
That methodology worked for the University of North Carolina All-American. She hit 14 greens in regulation and rolled in four birdies to counter two three-putt bogeys.
“It’s not always pretty in these conditions and you have to be a little creative, but I think this is a real solid start,” said Prange.
Bastel, a former Michigan State University stalwart, called the day “a real grind” that required patience. And like the rest of the leaders, the “money shot” today was the knockdown into the wind.
“We’ve had four weeks of wind, so it’s not making me anxious any more,” said Bastel, who played on the LPGA Tour for the last two seasons. “And you’re still in the tournament if your score is right around par.”
Twelve players are tied at one-under-par 71, including 2006 winner Ha Na Chae of Seoul, Korea and Jamie Stevenson of Mayfield, Utah, who trimmed two shots on the par-five 18th hole with an eagle-3. Stevenson hit her driver, and then roped a 6-iron 190 yards to five feet off the green. She rolled in a 30-footer for eagle on the 475-yard hole.
Christin Thomson of Fort Frances, Ontario also eagled the last hole, using driver, 7-wood on a 230-yard downwind shot to the front of the green. She stroked in a six-foot putt for eagle.
“It’s nice to end that way,” she said.
A total of 26 players posted scores of par or better in the first round of the third annual Jalapeno Duramed FUTURES Golf Classic.
Saturday's second round will begin at 8 a.m., off the first and tenth tees. The leaders will tee off at 2:09 p.m.
The field will be cut to the low 70 players and ties after the completion of two rounds.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Mostly cloudy with a high temperature of 87 degrees with wind around 21 mph and gusts up to 26 mph.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (956) 664-2031 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo Getty Images