ALBANY, NEW YORK, July 25, 2014 – Min Lee fired her best round of the year, a 6-under-par 65, to snag sole possession of the 18-hole lead at the SEFCU Championship at Capital Hills on Friday. She is one shot clear of Brianna Do and Laura Wearn, who each carded a 5-under 66.
A total of 44 players finished under-par and 60 were even or better. The projected cut line is just 1-over-par after day one.
The 19-year-old, third youngest in the field, started on the back nine with a flurry of birdies. She made birdie on the 10th, 11th and 12th holes to ascend towards the top of the leaderboard. After two consecutive pars, she made birdie on the 15th hole to make the turn at 4-under.
“My putter was great today, I made a lot of long putts” said Lee. “I made a lot of putts to save par, it was my best day yet.”
Lee, who fixed her putter a couple weeks ago, needed just 25 putts on the day and made seven total birdies.
“I saw the lines today and just rolled them in. I fixed my putter and the ball is rolling better right now, so I have confidence.”
In her rookie season on the Symetra Tour, Lee ranks 19th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with $20,180 earned. She has three top-10 finishes including a tie for sixth at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic.
She has never been on top of the leaderboard at the conclusion of a round.
“It is my first time at the top of the leaderboard and I hope my name stays there for all three days.”
Lee’s caddie this week is professional golfer Meaghan Francella, who played in 45 Symetra Tour events between 2004 and 2013. Francella won the Lakeland Duramed FUTURES Classic.
Francella also won on the LPGA Tour at the 2007 MasterCard Classic. Additionally, she recorded seven top-10 finishes.
“She helps me a lot because the greens are pretty tricky so she helped me a lot on the greens. She also helped with my alignment so she is my hero.”
For the rest of the week, Lee is keeping her mindset clear.
“All I can do is stick to my plan and that is what I am going to do.”
Like every other player on the Symetra Tour, Lee’s goal is simple and a win would go a long way towards realizing it.
“A win or a good finish would get me closer to the LPGA.”
Nine players are two shots off the lead at 4-under 67 while an additional ten players are three shots back at 3-under 68.
“I couldn’t really figure out what club to hit and I decided to hit my 8-iron,” said the 23-year-old Wearn. “I hit a really good shot and it wound up going in the hole so it was pretty exciting.”
She made five birdies and two bogeys in addition to the eagle on 17. It was her first round in the 60’s this year.
“I got off to a really good start with birdies on my first two holes and then I just continued to hit my iron shots really well to give myself a lot of chances.”
Wearn has admittedly struggled in her rookie season on the Symetra Tour with just two cuts made in ten events played. However, she has finished inside the top-30 both times she made the cut.
“It’s really exciting to start an event like this, it gives me confidence for the rest of the tournament. Hopefully I can continue to play this well, but just to see that I can do it is a step forward.”
Wearn was part of a crew of players that attended the Tri-City ValleyCats game last night against the Staten Island Yankees.
“I am [enjoying my time in Albany]. I hope there is a Tri-City game every night because I would definitely go. The game was really fun and this round was really fun.”
TALLEY USES BREAK TO CLEAR MIND: Emily Talley spent two and a half weeks during the recent Symetra Tour break with her boyfriend in Norway. She used the time to get away from golf and it clearly paid off in round one.
Talley fired a 4-under 67 and is part of a cluster of nine players in a tie for fourth.
“I was a little shaky coming off a three week break so you don’t really know what to expect right off the bat and I was really, really conservative in my first nine holes and then I got confident and comfortable.”
She made the turn at 1-over and then caught fire with back-to-back birdies on the first and second holes. Later on her back nine, she made eagle on the par-4 sixth hole.
“I actually holed out to make eagle on my 15th hole so that was a nice welcome back to golf moment. I unfortunately bogeyed my last hole, but other than that it was steady today. I putted really well.”
Talley attributed the time off to her success.
“I definitely took a lot of time off during the break. In the first two weeks I played a total of 36 holes. It was much needed and then I started working on things. I really needed that three week break, my swing was doing some things it wasn’t supposed to at the end of the last stretch.”
Talley currently ranks 12th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list, less than $1,500 outside the top-10.
“This stretch is really, really important to me. I want to have a couple really solid golf tournaments. If I get those done first, it will let me relax and just play at the end of the season. I hope to get to the end of the season and deserve to be on the LPGA.”
So, how was Norway?
“Norway was amazing, it was 15-degrees warmer than it has ever been. It was beach weather, not golf weather so it was good.”
“I was 1-over through six holes and then I made five birdies in a row so that was exciting and something I’ve never done before in a tournament,” said number two on the Volvik Race for the Card money list Steen. “I would have loved to make a couple more birdies, but you can’t be greedy.”
Steen, who has two wins already this year, is happy to see her name on the leaderboard again.
“I always like when (my name) is anyway up there on the leaderboard. Obviously, I would like to try to get another win this week, that is a goal of mine.”
Steen is coming off a T32 at the LPGA Marathon Classic in Toledo, Ohio. She Monday qualified and then shot 67-73-69-70 over four days.
“It was a huge confidence boost and it was just a great week from start to finish. The atmosphere out there even for the practice rounds is great, there was a lot of hype around the tournament. Being amongst the greatest players in the world was a really fun experience.”
Surprisingly, even to herself, she didn’t get nervous.
“I really didn’t get nervous, which I thought I might. The crowds were bigger, but it was really good that I felt really comfortable out there, which is a really good sign. I am really looking forward to next year.”
Steen plans to play out the rest of the Symetra Tour schedule, even though she has a card just about wrapped away.
“Even though I’d love to be out there more, I’d have to travel quite a bit for the Monday qualifiers and so on the weeks where they conflict I don’t think it is really worth it. I’d rather put all my efforts into preparing for the Symetra Tour events.”
NEW YORKER HILL HAS BEST ROUND OF YEAR: Pelham, New York native Nannette Hill always enjoys the Northeast swing. Even more so now after a 4-under 67 in the first-round of the SEFCU Championship at Capital Hills with her boyfriend on the bag and friends and family in tow.
She carded her first sub-70 round all year.
“I just tried to stay loose out there and I was putting really well,” said the 27-year-old Hill. “I made some critical up and downs early in the round and just tried to take it one shot at a time and I didn’t get too down if something didn’t go my way.
Hill, who started on the back nine, actually ran into trouble on her third hole. She lost a ball on the par-5 12th and took a double bogey. Although it could have been the beginning of a tough round, Hill recovered with a birdie on the very next hole.
“After the double, I told myself that I have been there before and it’s not the end of the round. I just tried to get up to the next hole, put a good swing on it and try to be easy on myself. I tried not to be too hard on myself.”
Hill, who played at Pelham Memorial High School, was a three-time winner of the New York State Junior from 2000-2002. She was also All-State in 2004 and a 2005 EA Sports All-American.
“I love New York and I love being a New Yorker. Anytime I get to play in the state of New York it makes me very happy. It brings back good memories when I come up here and brings me back to my childhood a little bit.”
After graduating from Wake Forest, Hill got her LPGA Tour card quickly and played for a couple years. Unfortunately, she began to suffer from an elbow ailment called Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.
“On both elbows, my nerve was sitting on top of my funny bone and so they had to move the nerve over and make a sling for it. It was a pretty complicated and painful surgery.”
Hill had two surgeries to try and alleviate the problem and then had to have a third surgery.
“One of them didn’t heal up right with all the scar tissue so they had to go back for another one and the third surgery was the worst one because it was the most painful and the rehab process was really long so it was a tough time in my life.”
She now feels 100 percent healthy and ready to return to the LPGA Tour.
“I definitely enjoy the game more and am appreciative of the opportunity to play each week. I just have a different perspective nowadays. My goal is to get back to the LPGA Tour again."
Bret Lasky, Coordinator, Symetra Tour Media, email@example.com, 386-679-1292