GREENWOOD, South Carolina, May 11, 2017 - Allie White (Lancaster, Ohio) hasn’t played a tournament round since the 2016 Decatur-Forsyth Classic in August, but it didn’t look that way on the course Thursday at The Links at Stoney Point. She made five birdies in her season debut and carded a 4-under, 68 to share the first-round lead with Celine Boutier (Montrouge, France) and Augusta James (Bath, Ontario) at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic.
Allison Emrey (Charlotte, N.C.), Kim Welch (Sacramento, Calif.) and Anne-Catherine Tanguay (Quebec, Canada) posted 3-under, 69’s to share third place. There are 18 players under-par after day one.
White, who became the graduate assistant women’s golf coach at Ohio University in 2016, even surprised herself with the low number in her return to Tour golf.
“I wasn’t thinking too hard because I was thinking a 75 would be pretty good so it was lower than expected,” explained White. “I knew I had it (68) in me, you just don’t know when it is going to come out so I’m glad it did today.”
White’s putter was red hot as she needed just 26 putts.
White said she hasn’t had a ton of opportunities to practice during the school year or the golf season. She only occasionally “chips around” with the players.
“I practiced a lot last week, it was kind of like I was cramming for a test,” explained 27-year-old White. “I had papers to write and I coached six tournaments this spring. I would chip around, but it just wasn’t Symetra (Tour) intense practice. Last year, I missed the first four cuts coming out of coaching so it was nice to get off to a good start this time around.”
White, who started playing full-time on the Symetra Tour in 2013, decided to pursue her masters in journalism and jump start her coaching career in 2016. She has one more year left before she gets her masters.
“The girls are super fun and the head coach (Kelly Ovington) is awesome,” said White about her coaching job. “We finished third in our conference, which Kent State usually wins so hopefully we will be able to knock them off one day. There are people from all over the world in my graduate program so that is cool. We write a lot of papers and read a lot of stuff.”
Boutier also made five birdies and just one bogey. She played her outward nine in 33 with birdies on her first and fourth holes of the day.
“I played very good today, I was driving it on the fairway and my putting was pretty good too, I made some birdies when I had the opportunities,” said Boutier, who was the 2013-14 WGCA National Player of the Year while at Duke. “My whole game feels pretty good.”
Boutier was most proud that she put her best foot forward early in the tournament. Her low round of the season is a 67 two weeks ago at the Symetra Classic, but it came on the final day when she wasn’t truly in contention.
“I felt like my game was there and I could shoot low, but I wasn’t making the birdies in the first round so I’m really happy that I’m in this position this week,” explained Boutier, who has two top 10 finishes in her first year on Tour. “Hopefully I can keep it up for the next couple of rounds.”
Boutier said she is enjoying her first year on the Symetra Tour after a tremendous career at Duke. She won four times and totaled 13 top 10 finishes.
“It (Symetra Tour) has been a very good experience so far as I like to travel,” said Boutier. “I really like the atmosphere on Tour and the courses we play are great.”
Meanwhile, James chipped in for eagle on the sixth hole and also made birdie on eight before ending with a par on nine.
“I was around the hole all day from 50 yards and in and chipped in from the landing spot at 38 yards,” explained James. “It was obviously big in the end number.”
James’ 68 is her lowest round of the season and her first sub-par round since March 30 at the Gateway Classic at Longbow Golf Club.
“I’m very happy, it was great to put together a good round even with the wind picking up in some spots,” said James, who has 12 career top 10 finishes since 2015 on the Symetra Tour. “There wasn’t a whole lot that went wrong today.”
James had help prepping for the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic as Team Canada’s Head Women’s Coach Tristan Mullally was in town early in the week.
“Tristan is really helpful in general and it is very helpful to have him during a tournament week,” said James. “His expertise takes us all to this level so we have him to thank.”
Mullally spent time with James, Anne-Catherine Tanguay and Brittany Marchand.
“During a tournament week, we do a lot of maintenance and work on things we personally want to work on,” said James. “He doesn’t like to turn it into a training camp, it’s strictly tournament prep. Other weeks are more technical.”
James won the 2015 Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial. She finished 13th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list in 2015 and 12th in 2016.
EMREY AND WELCH POSTS 3-UNDER’S IN SAME GROUP
Allison Emrey and Kim Welch both posted 69’s while playing together in the morning wave.
Emrey started fast with birdies on the first two holes and four birdies on the front nine. On the contrary, Welch made four birdies over her final 12 holes including three over a four-hole stretch that started at the end of the outward nine.
“Once someone is making a lot of birdies, you feel like you can too,” said Emrey. “I was hot on the front and then she picked it up on the back so it was a good day for us both.”
Welch’s only mistake of the day was an errant drive on the eighth, her 17th hole. She was able to scramble for a bogey after taking a drop.
“It seemed like a lot of work for a five, but I feel great, the rest of the day went really well,” said Welch, who was running down the eighth fairway because of the long wait during the ruling. “I left a couple putts out there, but made a couple I probably shouldn’t have so it all evened itself out.”
Emrey has a pair of top 10 finishes this season and she has her dad, David, on the bag this week.
- Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Copenhagen, Denmark), who won the last tournament, posted a 1-under, 71 and is T13.
- Sisters Marta Sanz Barrio (-2, T7) and Patricia Sanz Barrio (+2, T47) are both in the top 50 in Greenwood.