LEAWOOD, Kan., May 16, 2008 - After a thorough shuffling of the leaderboard, Mindy Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif., posted a round of 3-under-par 68 to seal a first-day lead at the second annual Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City Championship on Friday.
Kim leads Andrea VanderLende of Longwood, Fla., (69) by one stroke while Kelly Lagedrost of Brooksville, Fla. (70) and Yeon Joo Lee of Seoul, South Korea (70) are two shots back after firing rounds of 1-under-par.
A former two-year LPGA Tour professional, Lagedrost set the tone early from the morning wave of tee times before Lee pulled even for a share of the lead. VanderLende temporarily held a one-stroke advantage as the afternoon wore on, but Kim edged out in front with a birdie on her last hole.
"I just really came out and tried my best and I had fun," said Kim, 18. "I really never know what will happen on the course.
For Kim, a second-year Duramed FUTURES Tour professional, she has been knocking on the door, posting top-10 finishes in Lakeland, Fla., and Lafayette, La. She has made the cut in all five events to date and with the exception of a 42nd-place tie last week in El Paso, Texas, Kim hasn't finished lower than 17th through four tournaments this season.
Despite hitting only six fairways, the teen's round was highlighted with an eagle on the sixth hole, hitting a 190-yard 3-iron hybrid to set herself up for a 12-foot birdie putt.
"I had some bad breaks and had a tough time reading the greens," Kim said. "I'm improving, but I'm not at the level that I want to be."
Kim, whose career-best finish was a tie for fifth in 2007 during her rookie season in Lakeland, was set on bouncing back from her first experience in Leawood last year when she shot an 82 in the first round and fell out of contention.
"I put everything in the rough or behind trees," said Kim, a former 2006 AJGA All-American. "I almost hurt my wrist in the rough and I was set on being a better putter this time."
The rookie VanderLende was playing with her mother, Sharon, in her gallery for the first time since her college days at the University of Florida in Gainesville when the Gators hosted the NCAA East Regional. She had five birdies on the day and finished the challenging back nine at even par.
"If you hit good shots, you'll be rewarded," VanderLende said. "I hit the pin twice and had two tap-ins for birdies. I just have to stay in the fairway and stay out of sticky situations."
The par-71, 6,274-yard layout gave players headaches throughout the day with a combination of subtle undulations in the greens and hazardous deep rough.
"There are plenty of intimidating holes out here," the morning-leader Lagedrost said. "Not that the front-nine is a birdie-fest either, but it's not easy."
Second-round play gets underway tomorrow morning off the first and 10th tees at 8 a.m.
For real-time scoring and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Sunny with a high of 74 degrees and winds at 10-15 mph.
Mahon Scales Leaderboard With Good Company
Juggling the role as a Duramed FUTURES Tour player and serving as a head coach for a NCAA Division I women's college golf program keeps Courtney Mahon of Lee's Summit, Mo., occupied. So it made it that much more special for the second-year Tour pro as she found herself in the top 10 coming off the 18th green with a 1-over-par 72 and five birdies on the day.
"I just tried to play smart golf, hit the greens and make my putts," Mahon said. "I made some good up-and-downs for par, but it really felt like I played a lot better than a 72."
Mahon took the reigns of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos in January, seeking to elevate a young program to the next level. The Kangaroos placed eighth at the Summit League Championships in April and Mahon has the program steered in the right direction.
The former two-time tournament winner at the University of Arkansas was accompanied by two of her "pupils" on Friday in Sally Meiners and Cherise Erickson, a pair of sophomores at UMKC who came out to watch their coach pursue a dream.
"It's amazing what she's been able to do in a short amount of time," said Meiners, a native of Kansas City. "Our team will be in great shape going into next year."
Competing in just her fourth career event, Mahon made the cut in the 2007 Leawood event, tying for 64th. She narrowly missed the cuts through the Texas swing in McAllen and El Paso this year.
"It felt strange to switch roles," Mahon said with a smile. "Usually I'm coming out to watch the players and today they were out to follow me. They (Sally and Cherise) didn't call me 'coach' though."
Overcoming Fatigue Figures to Factor as Season Wears On
Misun Cho of Cheongju, South Korea, was perplexed after missing the cut last week at the El Paso Golf Classic. She had won an iPod Touch to kick off Duramed's season-long promotion of the Sunday Low Round Award and had made four straight cuts up to that point, including a career-best 16th-place showing at the season-opening Bright House Networks Open in Lakeland, Fla.
The former standout at Pepperdine University took several steps back and re-evaluated her approach. She thought she was really negative on herself and didn't manage herself well. It seems as though she is back on track after recording a round of 1-over-par 72 on Friday.
"This course is the toughest out of all we've played," Cho said. "I was fighting all day. It gets you mentally drained and once you get in the rough, you can't attack the green like you normally would."
It's only the sixth tournament of the Duramed FUTURES Tour's 28th season, but with the combination of travel and energy exerted, it becomes a different challenge for players on many levels.
"It was getting to the point where I needed an off week, but my mind didn't," said Kelly Lagedrost, who has played in every event this season.
Simple tasks, like getting enough sleep or sufficient nourishment on the course during the round, are critical according to Lagedrost, a seventh-year Duramed FUTURES Tour pro.
"I usually hit a lull around the 13th or 14th hole," Lagedrost said. "I'm always eating bananas out there. I guess I'm a monkey."
Many players were recovering from competing in various U.S. Women's Open qualifiers across the country prior to the tournament, battling inclement weather in some cases and still road-weary from another trip.
Contact: Ben Schlesselman, 386-274-7096, Ben@duramedfuturestour.com.