DAVIDSON, N.C. — The effects of Mother Nature were felt right from the start of the Symetra Classic at River Run Country Club, as first round starting times began under a 10-minute delay due to overnight rain and the need to finish course preparations.
Intermittent rain showers throughout the morning wave of pairings also led to a 30-minute suspension and a sense of anxiety about what was still to come.
“I thought it was really tough because I felt like I was playing really well, was heading more towards a couple under par, then it kept on raining and stopped, rain and stopped,” said Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany), who was one of 12 players that shot 1-over par today. “It was a matter of judgment. At some point, you lost a feel for how you were supposed to hit it, or how much the ball would spin. It was hard to figure out how far to hit the ball, really.”
Even with the tough conditions, Dottie Ardina (Laguna, Philippines) managed to card the only round under par from the morning groups. It just so happens that she is also the 18-hole solo leader at 3-under par.
“I’m really happy with how I played today,” said Ardina, who carded four birdies and one bogey en route to a first round 69. “My irons and second shots were pretty solid. On the back nine after the rain delay, I was just trying to play steady, hit fairways and greens, and stay focused.”
Ardina heads into Friday with a two-stroke advantage over four players tied for second at 1-under par, including Stacy Bregman (Johannesburg, South Africa), Min-G Kim (Cheongju, Republish of Korea), Regina Plasencia (Guadalajara, Mexico) and Kendall Dye (Edmond, Oklahoma).
Meanwhile, the weather shifted in the early afternoon from rain, to an overcast, but blue sky, mixed with extended periods of sun. Nonetheless, the course was still heavily saturated and battled back.
“You have to be mentally tough,” said Janie Jackson (Huntsville, Alabama), who shot 3-over par in round one. “It sounds cliché, but everybody does have to play the same conditions and it’s really wet. But, everybody has to play in it, so you have to be positive. Off the tee, definitely played longer because you weren’t getting any roll.”
A total of 15 players sit at even par or better after today. Furthermore, 67 individuals are at 3-over par or better. Second round action picks up tomorrow at 7:30 a.m.
PERRY JOINED BY FAMILY, SWING COACH
They have worked together for 11 years and this week Katherine Perry (Cary, N.C.) has swing coach Robert Linville on the bag for the Symetra Classic, her first event of the 2018 Symetra Tour season.
With her mother also in attendance today, the University of North Carolina alumna fought to a 2-over par 74, finding four bogeys and two birdies. Tomorrow, her dad will make his way to River Run Country Club to join the family affair.
“It’s really nice to be close to home,” said Perry. “Having Robert on the bag is really helpful because he can help with the swing and we can work on things more after the round. I’m just comfortable out there with him.”
Based on the conditions and how the course responded, Perry’s swing coach didn’t have any negatives to take away from the round regarding her performance. Instead, one aspect made play particularly more difficult.
“It’s hard to judge the yardage exactly,” said Linville, also the founder of the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour (PKBGT). “Even though you might have a perfect lie, it’s just so wet. She’s playing well.”
ALLEN CADDYING FOR STRAUSS
After winning the River Run Shootout on Monday as part of “Team NASCAR on NBC,” Bertine Strauss (Pretoria, South Africa) and Rick Allen—the lead announcer for NASCAR on NBC broadcasts—were again on the same team today, as Allen caddied for Strauss.
“It was awesome, he’s good. Didn’t get in the way of anyone, didn’t lose anything,” Strauss said laughingly. “Positive and helped me with reading my putts. I’ll take him back for tomorrow. It’s nice to have someone to talk to, someone you can make a joke with and take your mind off shots in between.”
They may have scrapped their way to a 6-over par 78, but with how the course is playing, the team of Strauss and Allen is still very much alive.
“Bertine is fun and that’s the good part about this,” said Allen, who has been a caddy in several Pro-Am events, but experiencing the duty in a tournament setting for the first time this week. “Even though we didn’t score as well as I think we could’ve, she had a good time and I enjoyed the camaraderie. We probably need to knock about eight strokes off of my round now because of what I’ve learned from Bertine about the mental part of the game.”
DOTTIE ARDINA INTERVIEW