LAFAYETTE, La., April 20, 2007 – Janell Howland might have still been humming a country hit from the CMT Music Awards when she carded her career-low score of 65 in today’s first round of the $75,000 Louisiana Pelican Classic. Howland was in Nashville on Monday for the annual Country Music Television awards, drove to Lafayette on Tuesday and found herself as the leading act in a golf tournament by Friday after a star-studded performance of eight birdies and a single bogey.
“We couldn’t ask for better conditions out here,” said Howland of Boise, Idaho, who benefited from a sunny day with little wind at The Wetlands, a two-year-old municipal tract designed around water hazards. “And I’m more comfortable now that I’m not fighting with my equipment.”
Howland credited her new set of Ping Rapture irons for making a difference in her performance and confidence. She hit 16 greens in regulation and converted 27 putts for her seven-under-par round on the 6,437-yard, par-72 course. She also admitted that she felt a sense of comfort with her father carrying her bag and her mother walking in her gallery – both visiting from Boise. Also in her gallery was Tour alumna Kristy McPherson, one of the five 2007 LPGA Tour card winners from last season who is in town visiting her old pals on the Duramed FUTURES Tour.
Never mind that Howland sprayed two shots in her round that nearly clocked McPherson in the noggin as she walked along. The rest of the day was tight and on target. The sixth-year pro from Lamar University stroked her irons from within five to 15 feet of her target all day, with only one birdie, No. 18, from 25 feet.
Jumping on the leaderboard with rounds of five-under-par 67 was rookie Jane Park of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Canadian Kim Brozer of Red Deer, Alberta.
Park was suffering from a head cold and sore throat and said she focused only when she needed to focus. The rest of the day, she simply “trudged along.”
“I was sneezing all over the place walking down the fairways, but when I got to my ball, I stopped and just tried to get the ball in the hole,” said Park, a former U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and U.S. Curtis Cup Team member playing in her second Duramed FUTURES Tour event as a pro. “I haven’t been in this position for a very long time, so it’s good to see that I still have something.”
That “something” that Park had was plenty of game in the opening round of the second annual event. She hit 16 greens in regulation and credited her distance control in a round that featured seven birdies and a double-bogey when her tee shot steered into a hazard on the par-four 12th – which was her third hole.
“Even after that, I knew I still had 15 holes left and that I was good to go,” said Park, a former UCLA collegian who tied for 10th in last year’s U.S. Women’s Open Championship.
Brozer said she found her “get-up-and-go” game in the winds of Frisco (Texas) last week. And in today’s perfectly calm weather, the experienced player took advantage of her iron play. Her approach shots were close all day and her longest birdie putt was from 10 feet. By the end of the round, she had collected seven birdies and two bogeys and a bagful of confidence with her putter.
“I got a putting lesson from Crafty [LPGA Tour veteran Jane Crafter] a month ago and she even gave me her putter,” said Brozer, a non-exempt LPGA Tour member whose last win on the Duramed FUTURES Tour was in 2005 in Syracuse, N.Y. “I’ve been working and working on my putting and it’s finally coming along.”
Four players are tied one shot back at four-under-par 68, including last week’s winner, Allison Fouch of Grand Rapids, Mich. Fouch is joined by rookie Angie Hill of Canton, Ohio, non-exempt LPGA Tour member Celeste Troche of Asuncion, Paraguay and two-time 2005 winner, Jenny Gleason of Clearwater, Fla.
“I feel very comfortable on this course,” said Fouch, who finished as runner-up in the 2006 Lafayette tournament. “I just kept focusing on making birdies because there are a lot of them out here.”
Fouch hit 15 greens in regulation and carded four birdies, two bogeys and an eagle-3 on the par-five 11th hole, where she rammed in a 60-footer.
Gleason liked the fact that she was hitting a lot of wedges into greens. Her day rendered 27 putts, five birdies and a single bogey.
“These greens remind me of greens in Florida, but they are firm,” said Gleason, also a non-exempt LPGA Tour member. “By no means are you spinning it on the greens. You just have to be smart and careful, but you also have to make birdies.”
Nine players are tied at three-under-par 69, including Liz Janangelo of W. Hartford, Conn., who won the Tour’s second tournament last month in Tampa.
In all, 38 players completed the first round under par at The Wetlands
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: Sunny and fair with a high temperature of 82 degrees and wind between 3-9 mph.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (337) 504-3192 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo Getty Images
photo Anton Vos
By Ian Chadband
By Alex Sharp