TWO TIED AT TOP AFTER DAY ONE OF FOUR WINDS INVITATIONAL
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — For two hours and 33 minutes this afternoon the Four Winds Invitational was under a weather delay, but it didn’t stop Samantha Wagner (Windermere, Florida) and Dana Finkelstein (Chandler, Arizona) from escaping a finish in the dark as co-leaders.
Each player shot 6-under par 66 to head into the second round atop the leaderboard. Just like both found a different way to that mark, they also have different backgrounds on the road to the LPGA Tour.
Finkelstein was a 2016 Symetra Tour graduate and today, signed a bogey-free card. Wagner is a Symetra Tour rookie, who surrendered one bogey and used seven birdies to join Finkelstein in looking down on the rest of the 144-player field heading into round two at Blackthorn Golf Club.
“I definitely think this helps getting settled a little more,” said Wagner, a University of Florida alumna. “This is the first time I’ve shot more than I think 2-under on the Symetra Tour this year. I’m a pretty aggressive player as it is, so just keep doing what I’m doing because it’s working.”
Meanwhile, one-shot back at 5-under par is a group of three players, including Louise Stahle (Lund, Sweden), Pavarisa Yoktuan (Nakhon Is Thammarat, Thailand) and Leslie Cloots (Antwerp, Belgium).
Similar to Wagner and Finkelstein, the path to this point for Stahle, Yoktuan and Cloots is quite contrasting.
Stahle turned pro in 2006 and has spent time on the LPGA, as well as Ladies European Tour (LET). The veteran fired six birdies with one bogey today.
“You’ve got some great players out here and there’s a lot of good competition,” Stahle said. “I think it’s getting tougher every year. I remember when I started, I thought it was tough then, but it’s getting really competitive. The main focus is to get back to playing LPGA, and Symetra Tour is a great way to get there.”
For Yoktuan, two bogeys and seven birdies helped her shoot 67. Coming back from a week off, she turned in this performance with brand-new Callaway irons and wedges, as well as putter. It also came at a good time health-wise.
“In North Carolina I had a wrist injury and it hurt,” said Yoktuan. “I’m recovering and it’s getting better. As I’ve healed, I’ve continued to play better and just keep going.”
Finally, Cloots started working with new coach Patrick Kelley in February. He is based out of Durham, N.C., at Old Chatham Golf Club, and the work the two have put in definitely showed today with results that included eight birdies.
“Totally different swing, kind of starting over,” Cloots said. “I had a lot of basics already set, but it’s really nice because before I thought it was a quick fix. With Patrick, we always work on the same things and just expand on it. I feel like I’m finally getting it on the course.”
A total of 66 players are at 1-under par or better after the first round. Day two gets underway tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. with players going off No. 1 and No. 10 tees.
CLOOTS, SCHECHTER START BIRDIECAST
Call it coincidence, or call it what you want, but there’s no denying the connection of 15 combined birdies today from Leslie Cloots and Maia Schechter (Chapel Hill, N.C.), who recently joined forces to start the new “Birdiecast” podcast.
Playing a round at UNC Finley Golf Course earlier this season, casual practice conversation with the occasional subtle joke actually led to the creation of the newfound hobby for the University of North Carolina alumnae and former Tar Heels teammates. With life already revolving around the game of golf, however, they aimed to create something that branched beyond simply playing the sport.
“We ended up with a podcast about making light of life on Tour,” said Cloots. “Did some research on how to put it out there and how to structure the episodes. Within a week of playing that round at Finley together we had recorded our first episode on my laptop. The hope is that more players get involved and Birdiecast becomes more of a player’s community podcast.”
So far it has. Since that initial show, ideas have formulated quickly and several Symetra Tour professionals have stopped by Birdiecast as guests.
“We want the listener to feel like they are at the table with us,” Schechter said. “I love golf, I love being on Tour and this is an opportunity to share our story. Birdiecast has provided a great hobby outside of golf and it’s something I can think about between shots on the course too, so it’s a nice distraction sometimes.”
A new episode comes out every Tuesday at 6 a.m. ET through their online host platform Anchor. It is also available on iTunes and Stitcher, with a great Instagram page to keep listeners updated with show happenings (@birdiecast).
“Our roles have molded really organically,” said Cloots. “I take care of the recording, editing and publishing. We come up with topic ideas together. Maia is really good with doing research and thinking through details in preparation for a show recording. The main focus is having fun 100 percent of the time.”
SAMANTHA WAGNER'S OPENING ROUND INTERVIEW
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