LAKE WALES, FLORIDA, March 21, 2014 - In her first Symetra Tour event of the season, Maude-Aimee Leblanc fired a 5-under-par 67 on Friday in the first-round of the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic to grab a two-stroke lead heading into the second-round.
Leblanc’s round started as good as she could have asked for with an eagle on the par-5 tenth hole. She birdied the 13th hole and made the turn at 3-under.
On the front nine, she birdied three of her first six holes. After a bogey on the seventh hole, she concluded her round with a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole.“I stroked the ball really well today,” said the 25-year-old Leblanc. “It was a little windy so that was tricky and some pins were tough to get close and I was struggling a little with the speed of the greens, but I stayed patient and made some good rolls and I played well.”
On her final hole, a par-5, Leblanc took advantage of the downwind and had a 5-iron into the green. She wound up in the green side bunker, but hit a great bunker shot to end her round with a birdie.
“I hit my bunker shot to about a foot and was able to make the putt so it was definitely a nice way to finish,” said Leblanc with a wide smile. “I’m definitely looking forward to coming back tomorrow.”
Leblanc has a two-stroke lead over Ginger Howard and Kendall Dye, who both shot 3-under 69.
“It’s always nice to be in contention, that is what everybody is working to do,” said the Sherbrooke, Canada native. “I’m going to stay with the same plan tomorrow and Sunday; I’ll be patient and I’m going to try to make some putts.”
Leblanc played in the first two LPGA events of the season. She missed the cut at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic and the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. The event in Australia, which was held from February 12-16, was the last time Leblanc played in an event."I worked on my swing and got some new clubs and that really made a big difference,” said Leblanc. “Just been playing well for the last couple of weeks and I’m glad it showed here today.”
Dye birdied the first two holes she played and made four total birdies on the day.
“It was a pretty good day, I actually got off to a shaky start, but was able to make some long par putts,” said Dye, who has seven career top-10 finishes on the Symetra Tour. “Then, I had back-to-back birdies by making a couple three-footers and I brought it on home.”
Dye, who grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma, is used to the tough conditions that players are facing at Lake Wales Country Club.
“I tried to be smart with the strong wind today and tried to stay below the hole so I could have some aggressive uphill putts.”Howard, a Bradenton, Fla. native, is also two strokes behind Leblanc. Howard made six birdies on the day and finished at 3-under-par.
“My approach shots were really good, I was sticking everything,” said the 20-year-old Howard. “Some of my putts let me down, but I still gave myself some chances to make birdies out there.”
Howard finished T35 at the Visit Mesa Gateway Classic at Longbow Golf Club and T66 at the last event, the Volvik Championship.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot, I knew that the other girls were going to take it low in the state of Florida,” said Howard. “I have nothing but positive thoughts right now.”
After two events on the west coast, Howard is excited about the chance to play the next four events in the state of Florida including the Sarasota tournament, the Guardian Retirement Championship at Sara Bay. The course is only ten minutes from her home.
Nine players finished three shots off the lead at 2-under-par. Amongst the players at 2-under is Vero Beach native Jackie Stoelting.
Stoelting made five birdies on the day and managed to survive a double bogey on the par-3 12th hole.
“I had a couple of hiccups, but overall I’m pleased with how I shot and know that since I made five birdies, I can make a lot more these next two days.”
Stoelting, who played college golf at Florida Southern College, had her husband Travis as her caddy on Friday.
“The first two events being out west, I didn’t have anybody there so it’s really comforting knowing that there are people here supporting me,” said Stoelting. “Especially with my husband on the bag, he knows my game the best, so I’m very comfortable and that just helps me relax a little bit.”
An additional five players finished the first round under par with a 1-under 71.
Caroline Powers is in the cluster at 1-under.
“It was pretty easy, I didn’t hit many fairways, but they weren’t far off and I hit a lot of greens,” said the Bowling Green, Ohio native. “Some sand saves helped me and I made a few putts and that was good enough.”
Although she is four strokes off the lead, Powers is keeping a positive mindset heading into Saturday’s second-round.
“Anytime you can get the first one under par it’s definitely good rolling into the weekend.”
Powers, who was sporting a Michigan State hat on Friday, is ready for March Madness College Spirit Day on Saturday at Lake Wales Country Club.
“Tomorrow, I am going to have a full green outfit in support of the Spartans and I’m going to be cheering them on towards the finals.”
In the spirit of March Madness all players and staff are encouraged to show their school spirit on Saturday, March 22nd in the form of apparel, headwear, footwear and accessories.
Local Sponsor Exemption
There are two local sponsor exemptions in the field at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic. Emily Flanigan-Motta shot a 1-over 73 and is T27 after the first-round while Winter Haven High School sophomore Athena Yang shot a 5-over 77 and is T92 after day one.
Motta, who played college golf at Florida Southern College, had an up-and-down round with four birdies and five bogeys.
The 16-year-old Yang made five bogeys and 13 pars on Friday.
Bret Lasky, Coordinator, Symetra Tour Media, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 (386) 679-1292