PRATTVILLE, Alabama, September 22, 2017 - Elizabeth Szokol (Winnetka, Illinois) did something on Friday that Ariya Jutanugarn, the No. 5 player in the world, and Lexi Thompson, the No. 2 player in the world, both did in past LPGA tournaments at the Capitol Hill location of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Szokol matched the female course record with a 9-under, 63 to grab the 18-hole lead at the inaugural Guardian Championship.
The second round will begin on Saturday at 7:00 a.m. while the final-round will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday. The Tour decided on Friday that the final-round will be a split-tee start and therefore will likely finish between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m.
Szokol will take a three-stroke lead into the weekend over Yu Liu (Bejing, China), who turned in a 6-under, 66. Desiree Dubreuil (Santa Ana, Calif.) shares third place at 5-under, 67 with two-time winner Hannah Green (Perth, Australia).
Szokol, 23, started on the back nine with birdies on 10 and 12 and closed her outward nine with birdies on 16, 17 and 18. Her lone bogey of the day came on hole two. After birdies on holes five and six, she put an exclamation point on the round with a a 20-foot eagle putt on eight and a birdie on nine.
“It was pretty exciting, I was just hitting fairways and had short irons and hit a lot close,” said Szokol, who is the ninth player to post a 63 since the LPGA starting coming to Capitol Hill in 2007. “The eagle-birdie finish was definitely a fun way to close.”
On hole eight, Szokol crushed a driver and then had 199 yards to the pin and hit a beautiful 5-iron to 20-feet and made the eagle. On hole nine, she hit a 3-wood off the tee and had a 52-degree wedge into the green and drained a left to right 8-footer.
Szokol took complete advantage of her length off the tee all day. She ranks second on Tour in driving distance at 275.756 per drive. She played the par-5 holes in 5-under with at least a birdie on all four.
The Tour rookie ranks 18th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with $32,014 earned in 18 starts. The first place payout of $15,000 could move her as high as 13th on the money list with two events remaining.
“I know I have to play really well and win a tournament to possibly break into the top 10,” said Szokol. “I just have to keep playing golf and we will see what happens.”
Szokol has four top 10 finishes this season. She started her college career at Northwestern and finished at Virginia.
Meanwhile, Liu is eighth on the money list and could move closer to a spot on the LPGA with a win.
“This is my third year on the Symetra Tour and I feel like I improved a lot over the offseason,” said Liu, who chipped in for eagle on hole 17. “I’m really determined to finish in the top 10 and get my card. I just am really trying to give it 100 percent and leave nothing out on the table."