FIRST ROUND CONCLUDES, EVENT NOW 36 HOLES
ALBANY, N.Y. — The entire narrative of the 34th annual Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY has been molded by Mother Nature as more delays filled day two at Capital Hills at Albany Golf Course, forcing the first round to conclude late and pushing the start of the second (and final) round to Sunday.
Originally scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. ET this morning, round one did not get underway until 9:37 a.m. due to unplayable course conditions. It then chugged along until another weather delay began at 2:01 p.m. when lightning crept into the Capital Region, giving way to heavy rains.
At 5:30 p.m., players found their way back onto the course and were able to officially complete the first 18 holes.
“Shooting 5-under is awesome, but finishing is even better,” Erica Popson (Davenport, Florida) said laughingly. “I got here at 6:50 this morning when I pulled in the parking lot, so it has been a really long day. I’m glad to be able to go grab some food, have a whiskey and go to bed.”
Popson was one of four players to card an opening round 5-under par 66. That group, along with the rest of the 144-player field will be chasing Kendall Dye (Edmond, Oklahoma) tomorrow. The former University of Oklahoma standout fired a 6-under par 65, complete with nine birdies and three bogeys.
With conditional status on the LPGA Tour this year, Dye hasn’t had the season she was hoping for across eight starts in the big time. Nonetheless, this result does not make her bat an eye.
“I have been playing really good golf, solid golf, but just not consistent enough,” said Dye, who shot a bogey-free, 5-under par 31 going out this afternoon. “I have missed every cut on the LPGA by like one to three shots, typically. It’s just soul crushing because you go back and think what if, but I’m not surprised by today. Everything kept dropping and I was hitting good shots.”
Equipped with new Ping i200 irons, Dye said they made all the difference in attacking pins. She was previously using the G400 model, but found the control on spin and distance just wasn’t cutting it.
Considering all that has gone against Dye this year, perhaps now is the time for everything to play out in her favor. She’ll draw on the hot start and her best finish of tied for second in this event, which came in 2013.
“I literally am plugging every single green,” Dye said. “I told the girls in my group that golf would be so easy if this is how it was every single day. Just aim, shoot, fire. Hopefully with all the experience I can go and get the ‘W’ tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, the success Popson found today can be traced to a simple conversation she had with her swing coach Lauren Stratton on Thursday night after a miniature ‘mental breakdown’ before tournament play began. They focused on a goal of one shot at a time and staying in the moment. She’ll take the message with her into the final round tomorrow, as well.
“I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself looking toward the end of the year, from trying to meet personal goals, giving myself a chance to get my card or get to Q-Series,” said Popson. “She told me just to keep everything in perspective because I love to live in the future. It really helped me get back to the present.”
A total of 75 players sit at even par or better heading into the final round. With no cut being made as the Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY is now a 36-hole event, the top-60 players and ties will be paid accordingly. The action tomorrow will begin at 7:30 a.m. ET off No. 1 and No. 10 tees.
SCHECHTER IN RANGE OF BECOMING FIRST TWO-TIME WINNER OF SEASON
Joining Erica Popson in the mix of four players just one shot back heading into the Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY final round is Maia Schechter (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), who found her way to seven birdies and a double bogey in round one.
She began play yesterday at 8:36 a.m. ET off No. 10 tee and completed 15 holes, going 2-under par in the process. With three holes to play today Schechter went on a tear, landing her approaches to seven feet, two feet and four feet, respectively. It capped a string of four straight birdies coming in.
“That was a fun way to finish off the round,” said Schechter, currently No. 19 in the Volvik Race for the Card. “Today, I didn’t really change my gameplan at all, as far as picking a target. I did feel a little different on approach shots since you could pretty much fly it right to the hole and it would stop. I just hit the numbers.”
Already a champion this season at the Four Winds Invitational where she erased a five-stroke deficit with a final round 6-under par performance, Schechter is in range of becoming the first two-time winner on the Symetra Tour in 2018.
However, ever since stepping into the winner’s circle, Schechter mentioned it has felt like she has been treading water. In the five starts following her first professional victory, the former University of North Carolina standout has missed four cuts.
“I think it would be fantastic to get a second win,” Schechter said. “Really since winning, it has been like holding on for dear life instead of playing the golf I know I can. This round I was not trying as hard to be so careful and my swing felt good. I feel like this week I finally got fed up and have been aggressive, in the sense of not trying to guide the ball and be so careful.”
Schechter will begin pursuit of a second piece of hardware at 1:36 p.m. ET tomorrow off No. 1 tee, joined by Stephanie Kono (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Min Seo Kwak (Seoul, Republic of Korea).
KENDALL DYE'S OPENING ROUND INTERVIEW
ERIC POPSON'S OPENING ROUND INTERVIEW