LEAWOOD, Kan., May 18, 2007 – Four players are tied for the lead after the first round of the $80,000 Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City Championship. And on the toughest-playing course so far this season, Leawood South Country Club showed the field just why it has the respect of locals in this Kansas City suburb.
“This course reminds me of the course I grew up playing, and when you grow up in this kind of rough, you know you’d better hit the fairways,” said co-leader Kim Augusta of Rumford, R.I., who was a member at Wannamoisett Country Club – one of those tough little New England Donald Ross gems.
Augusta, along with Brandi Jackson of Greenville, S.C., Liz Janangelo of West Hartford, Conn., and Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, all are tied at one-under-par 70 in this week’s inaugural event.
“I’d take [a one-under-par 70] for all three rounds here,” added Augusta, who recorded 27 putts, but hit only 10 greens in her round. The Duramed FUTURES Tour veteran finished the day with two birdies and one bogey for the early clubhouse lead.
The 6,277-yard, par-71 Leawood South course – which hosted the LPGA Tour in the early 1970s -- features a gently rolling, tree-lined layout with slick greens and a deep rough. Bastel says the tract reminds her of courses favored by the United States Golf Association.
“I like hard conditions and hard golf courses and I’ve played well in the past in USGA events,” said Bastel, a winner this season who played for two years on the LPGA Tour. “This course reminds me of that. It’s right up there with other LPGA-style courses.”
Bastel’s round included three birdies, two bogeys and a fair amount of scrambling when she hit only four fairways in regulation. The former Michigan State University player hit only 10 greens, but she got her putter rolling with 27 putts. Her biggest challenge was the considerable difference in her club yardages from Tuesday’s rain-saturated practice round to today’s sunny conditions in which the fairways had dried out and quickened. On Tuesday, for example, she hit a 7-wood into the ninth green on her second shot. Today, she hit a 9-iron.
“You have to be so patient because you want to make the most of your opportunities and you have to adapt when the conditions change,” said Bastel. “I worked hard for this 70 today, and I’ll take it.”
Jackson started on the tougher back nine and rattled in birdies on holes 12, 13 and 14 to grab the lead at three under for eight holes. But the former Furman University All-American added three bogeys and one more birdie to keep her share of the lead. She hit 13 greens in regulation and used 29 putts.
“I was just kind of steady today and when I got into trouble, I got out of it,” said Jackson, still looking for her first Tour victory. “On some of these holes, you just take your medicine and try not to make more than a bogey.”
And while only eight players shot even-par 71 or better today – some likely wistful for a weed whacker on Leawood’s ruthless rough – Janangelo walked off the tract calling it “fantastic.”
“You have to think your way around this course and the greens are so great, you can make anything,” said the former Duke University All-American who won the season’s second event in Tampa, Fla.
Janangelo used 29 putts in her round while hitting only 12 greens. The second-year pro said she was forced to save par numerous times, including on her final hole -- the ninth -- to keep a share of the lead.
“It’s one shot at a time,” she said. “And you just keep going.”
Four players are one shot off the lead at even-par 71. Two-time 2006 winner Ji Min Jeong of Kyungki, Korea, Sarah Martin of Grosse Ile, Mich., Vikki Laing of Musselburg, Scotland and Jin Hyun Kim of Seoul, Korea, all moved into a share of second after the first round.
Martin actually got to four-under par through 12 holes before she ran into Leawood South’s own back-nine Amen Corner – Holes 13 through 16, where she carded bogeys on holes 13, 15 and 16. Martin added one more bogey on the 18th. Two bogeys came from weak chips out of the rough. The other two came from three-putt greens. Even with the two three-putts, Martin used only 26 putts today.
“The front nine is the scoring side and the back nine is a very difficult set of holes,” said Martin, who played at Michigan State with Bastel and was a 2006 non-exempt LPGA Tour member. “I never let my guard down today and my chipping and putting is what kept me in it.”
Presented by Zurich, Saturday's second round will begin at 8 a.m., off the first and tenth tees. The leaders will tee off at 2:20 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 70 degrees with wind around 13 mph, gusting to 18 mph.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (913) 338-1272 and at email@example.com.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images