Olivia Jordan-Higgins (Jersey, UK) drained a 20-foot birdie putt on 18, her eighth birdie of the day, to put an exclamation point on a “dream start” to the 2017 season with a 6-under, 66 to lead the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic after day one. Jordan-Higgins, who has two career Symetra Tour victories with her last coming in 2014, has a two-stroke lead over Davenport native Erica Popson, who carded a 5-under, 67. Laura Wearn (Charlotte, N.C.), who won on Tour in 2016, is two shots back at 4-under, 68.
Chirapat Jao-Javanil (Hua Hin, Thailand) and Natalie Sheary (West Hartford, Conn.) are tied for fourth at 3-under, 69.
“I honestly could not have asked for a better start,” said Jordan-Higgins, who gave a big embrace to her caddie Rebecca Samuelsson, who played on the Symetra Tour from 2010-2014, after making birdie on 18. “This is what you work for in the offseason and it has paid off.”
Jordan-Higgins, who fell just $114 short of an LPGA Tour card in 2013, worked a lot on her putting and her confidence, which seem to go hand-in-hand. She attempted 28 putts on the round.
“The putter was definitely on form today, but you still have to give yourself the chances,” explained Jordan-Higgins, who played college golf at Charleston Southern. “I lost a lot of belief and confidence in myself and I’ve been trying to rebuild that and not base everything on results. I had to start trusting my line with the putter.”
Jordan-Higgins, who finished in the top 20 on the money list each year from 2012-2014, is still believing that her seventh year on Tour will be the charm.
“My past results, winning out here, being close are all things I keep in the back of my mind to remind myself that it is possible (an LPGA card),” explained 29-year-old Jordan-Higgins. “The difference between me making it and not making it is so minimal.”
Meanwhile, Popson, who went to high school 10 miles from Country Club of Winter Haven at Ridge Community High School, made four birdies, an eagle and just one bogey.
“I was nervous all day because I made quite a few swing changes over the offseason,” said Popson, who finished 12th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list in 2016. “I don’t 100 percent trust the changes yet, but I’m still working on them and I’m proud of the way I played. I putted really, really well.”
Popson never played at Country Club of Winter Haven growing up, but is proud to represent Polk County this weekend as best she can.
“I’m playing at home and I want to represent Polk County,” said Popson, who splits time between Davenport and Knoxville, Tennessee. “I know I’ll have a lot of support this weekend.”