HE HOLDS TWO-STROKE LEAD AFTER FIRST ROUND
MAINEVILLE, Ohio — After turning in a 7-under par 65 out of the second group off No. 10 tee this morning, Muni He (Chengdu, China) saw it stand the rest of the day to take a two-shot advantage into round two of the inaugural Prasco Charity Championship at TPC River’s Bend.
“Today went pretty smoothly, it was a bogey-free round,” said He. “I felt pretty consistent throughout my round. I had my chances here and there, was able to make some. It felt like 7-under just kind of came natural today. I’m really proud of myself for staying out of trouble.”
In her first year on the Symetra Tour, He was slow to get going, but has recently turned things around. Over the last four events, she made three cuts, which included a season-best finish of tied for seventh at the Forsyth Classic.
“I was definitely struggling a bit at the beginning of the year, but this month I feel like I’m slowly starting to feel my game coming back to a pretty good position and pretty good place,” said He, who spent two semesters at the University of Southern California (USC) before turning pro in December. “Even though I didn’t do so well last week, it was just really silly mistakes and I still felt my game was pretty good. This month has been a little bit of a confidence booster.”
Meanwhile, a trio of individuals sit a couple strokes back of He. They include Leslie Cloots (Antwerp, Belgium), Samantha Troyanovich (Grosse Pointe, Michigan) and Pajaree Anannarukarn (Bangkok, Thailand), the current No. 8 in the Volvik Race for the Card.
Even though this is the first LPGA Tour family event at any level to be contested on a PGA TOUR owned and operated course, the TPC name hasn’t been too intimidating.
“I had a lot of short irons in today, hit a lot of fairways and greens,” said Cloots, who used seven birdies and two bogeys to card a 5-under par 67. “I feel like if you can do that, it doesn’t matter what course you play. Around the edge of the green, if you miss there it will just pitch in the rough. Sometimes you have those chip shots you have to hack out.”
Furthermore, four players are three shots off the lead at 4-under par, including a pair of rookies in Cheyenne Knight (Aledo, Texas) and Esther Lee (Los Alamitos, California), who was in the final pairing last Sunday at the Island Resort Championship. Jaclyn Jansen (Effingham, Illinois) and the current No. 2 in the Volvik Race for Card in Dottie Ardina (Laguna, Philippines) round out the group.
For Ardina, having two runner-up finishes already this season is experience she can draw on, but also serves as results that have her believing now is her time.
“I was actually telling my caddy that I want to win this week,” said Ardina, who was paired with Elizabeth Szokol (Winnetka, Illinois) and Stephanie Meadow (Jordanstown, Northern Ireland), the No. 3 and No. 6 players in the Volvik Race for the Card, respectively. “It was fun because it’s challenging. They’re very good players and you can never take out the competitiveness. I just like to keep it simple and we were having fun out there.”
Entering the weekend at TPC River’s Bend, He looks to simply continue what she was able to accomplish today.
“No expectations on myself,” He said laughingly. “I want to keep the same relaxed vibe, not think too much about it. Hopefully I’m able to play well and be consistent throughout the next two days.”
A total of 58 players sit at even par or better after the first round, while 77 competitors are 1-over par or better. Day two gets underway at 7:30 a.m. ET tomorrow.
SPONSOR EXEMPTION SWAYNE FINDS COMFORT AT HOME COURSE
One of two sponsor exemptions in the 144-player Prasco Charity Championship field this week, Alexandra Swayne (Maineville, Ohio) is as comfortable as can be competing at her home course of TPC River’s Bend.
Making her first start in a professional golf event, Swayne fired even par with three birdies and three bogeys.
“I didn’t really have many expectations, just go out, play my game,” said Swayne. “Reality was, it’s my home course, just golf and doesn’t matter what tournament it is. Play the course and make some putts.”
Swayne makes it sound easy, but that wasn’t the feeling going into the day.
“This morning I couldn’t really eat or I would’ve puked,” Swayne said with a laugh. “Definitely the first hole I was very nervous, missed an easy putt because I was a little too nervous. I have a way to deal with nerves so I was fine the rest of the round.”
A graduate of Kings High School, the local southwest Ohio product is ready for the next step in her amateur career, which she’ll continue at Clemson University this fall. Drawing on this Symetra Tour experience is one she said will only advance her game.
“It tells me that I can go to the next level and that I can compete against anyone,” said Swayne. “Majority of the top players after college are going to start at Symetra [Tour] or Q-School. It’s a notch on my belt that I can say I have been here and I know I can play with the big guys.”
JANDEL, GAHM REPRESENT SYMETRA TOUR FOR REDS FIRST PITCH
On Thursday night prior to the start of the Cincinnati Reds versus Milwaukee Brewers contest at Great American Ball Park, Emma Jandel (Dayton, Ohio) and Lindsay Gahm (Louisville, Kentucky) represented the Symetra Tour to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.
Being on the field and taking part in the festivities was a first for both individuals.
“I wasn’t super nervous until the camera was right in our face. He was like, ‘When I say three, just smile. You’re on the big screen,’” said Jandel, an Ohio native and Ohio State University alumna who grew up going to Reds games. “Lindsay and I were practicing before we left, I have to admit. But, when I got up there I was like, ‘Oh man, Lindsay’s little mitt looks like the size of a penny.’ It looked a lot further, but it was so much fun.”
While Jandel threw out the first pitch, there might have been more pressure on Gahm, who had catching responsibilities. Two of her three brothers in Josh and Brett were in attendance and she most likely would have never heard the end of a dropped first pitch.
“It was probably the fact that my brothers were there because I would never live that down if I didn’t catch it,” Gahm said after taking in her first Reds game. “That was more nerve-racking, just having them there. Once we got out there it was fun, a great experience. Now I can say I’m a real fan.”
At the conclusion of the night , the Brewers came out on top 6-4, halting the Reds short two-game win streak.
MUNI HE'S OPENING ROUND INTERVIEW