Former ACC Counterparts Star In First Round Of El Paso Golf Classic
03.05.2008 - Golf
El Paso, Texas, May 2, 2008 - The Atlantic Coast Conference was well represented as Virginia's Leah Wigger of Louisville, Ky., and Duke's Kristina Tucker of Stockholm, Sweden, each posted a pair of 6-under-par 66's to tie for the early lead in first-round play at the El Paso Golf Classic on Friday.
By-passing a chance to play in the LPGA's event this week in Broken Arrow, Okla., was a hard decision to make for Wigger, a non-exempt LPGA Tour member. After withdrawing from the SemGroup Championship on Wednesday, the former Virginia Cavalier promptly carved out seven birdies -- her only blemish a bogey on No. 17.
Her low round was highlighted by a near hole-in-one on the 134-yard 15th hole that was left just tap-in range behind the cup on her 9-iron shot.
"It was that close," she said.
Strangely enough, Wigger didn't feel like today was going to be her day.
"This morning, I wasn't feeling great," Wigger said. "I felt rushed and was going through some busy traffic. I wasn't hitting the ball well off the range and I didn't get to practice much (in general) because of the wind."
Already a Duramed FUTURES Tour champion this year at the AMERICAN SYSTEMS Invitational, Wigger's decision to play in Duramed FUTURES Tour events has paid off after originally planning to return in time for the Decatur, Ill., event in mid-June.
She currently ranks third on the money list despite missing the Louisiana Pelican Classic and barely missed a top-10 finish last week in McAllen, Texas, by placing in a tie for 11th.
There was no sign of a budding rivalry or hard feelings after Tucker (who formerly played at Duke as Kristina Engstrom) and her Blue Devils recently edged out Wigger's Cavaliers in the ACC Championship in Daytona Beach at LPGA International Golf Course.
Tucker made four birdies in her last five holes today and hit 17 greens with no chips. Her birdie streak was launched after a frustrating bogey on the fourth hole.
"I had a three-putt that got me really mad," said Tucker, a fifth-year Duramed FUTURES Tour pro. "When you're playing well though, putts start to drop, but three-putts just get me mad."
Tucker was clearly concerned about winds gusting up to 45 mph earlier in the week.
"I wasn't worried about playing well because I was just trying to stand up," the Swede said with a laugh. "I'm too tall and my feet are too little."
Bridget Dwyer of Kailua, Hawaii, and Cortney Reno of Grosse Ile, Mich., are lurking behind two strokes back, both at 4-under par (68). Dwyer carded back-to-back birdies on two occasions and remembered what LPGA Tour legend Kathy Whitworth had to say on Wednesday morning when she addressed the young pros of the Duramed FUTURES Tour at the El Paso Country Club.
"She (Kathy) said 'wind is a frame of mind'," Dwyer said. "I've been working on staying in the present and the fact that I had no idea what I shot today was a good thing."
It was a completely different story for the afternoon tee-times as the winds picked up full-throttle in the late afternoon. Players shook their heads in disbelief coming off the course convinced they had the right club selection for shots that went array.
Danah Ford of Indianapolis, Ind., was victim to a gust of wind that pushed her ball six feet past the hole on 18 where she made bogey. Ford finished at even par on the day, ranking among the more desirable scores in the afternoon.
The same went for Nicole Jeray of Berwyn, Ill., as the wind died and caused a 3-wood shot on her last hole to be "airmailed" over the green.
"I played much better than a 76," Jeray said. "I had wind blowing in my face and wanted to hit it hard. The wind just stopped and it (the ball) was gone."
It was strangely serene at the Underwood Golf Complex Sunrise Course on Friday morning for the early tee-times, easily dispelling the notion that turbulent winds reaching 45 mph earlier in the week had even existed.
With a combination of hats flying off heads and flagsticks looking like they would snap at the base early in the week during practice rounds and pro-ams, there was some concern prior to first-round play.
Second-round play picks up tomorrow morning off the first and 10th tees at 8 a.m.