SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota, August 31, 2017 - Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador) knows she’s close to an LPGA Tour card and that a win this week would put her on the cusp of realizing the dream. She got off to a great start with a 6-under, 65 to lead the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge at Willow Run Golf Course. Madison Pressel (Boca Raton, Florida) and Paola Moreno (Cali, Colombia) are one shot back at 5-under, 66.
A total of 14 players posted scores of 3-under or better and 41 players were under-par.
Darquea, who ranks 9th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list, could close-in on the LPGA with the first-place pay day of $31,500.
She made six birdies and an eagle on the reachable par-5 seventh hole.
“I had a good day, I putted really well and I like the greens,” said Darquea, who won the IOA Championship earlier this season. “I’ve been working on my putting and finally I am rolling them in.”
Darquea attempted 29 putts on the day.
The 21-year-old made birdie on her first hole of the day and then had a steady front nine. She really started to flourish on the back nine. She made birdie on three of her first four holes on her inward nine and then made eagle on seven. She birdied eight from 20-feet to get to 7-under, but made a bogey on the par-3 ninth to end her day.
Darquea went back to Ecuador for two weeks during the recent off weeks and then returned to the U.S. last week and took a putting lesson from James Sieckmann in Omaha. Sieckmann is very knowledgeable on putting. In fact, he published a book entitled “Your Putting Solution” last year.
“Whenever I get to visit him it is a positive thing mentally and he always gives me the right things to work on,” explained Darquea. “I feel like I have improved a lot this year and my putting is getting so much better.”
With six events left, Darquea is under $3,000 in front of No. 11 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list so nothing is assured.
“This is the most important event of the season for me because of where I am standing (on the money list), it is a key tournament,” said Darquea. “If I can score well the rest of the days, I’m probably going to be very close to the LPGA card, which is what I really want to do.”
Just a rookie, Darquea doesn’t seem to be feeling the pressure of the final stretch. Instead, she is relishing it.
“I feel the support back home and this is something I’ve wanted since I was really young,” said Darquea. “It’s a dream and I feel like I’m working really hard towards it. I feel like my game is at a really high level right now so I’m excited to keep playing.”
Darquea turning professional following a strong junior season at the University of Miami. She has three top 10 finishes this season.
She would be the first from Ecuador to compete on the LPGA Tour.