JACKSON HOLDS SOLO LEAD AFTER ROUND ONE
GARDEN CITY, Kan. — Another solid opening round from Janie Jackson (Huntsville, Alabama) of 7-under par 65 has her looking down on the rest of the 132-player field at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in the fifth annual Garden City Charity Classic.
She heads into the weekend with a one-stroke lead over a group of five players. It is the same spot Jackson was in after day one of the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship.
“A big thing for me from last year to this year is I am more comfortable being out here and I learned how to handle situations a little bit better,” Jackson said after carding nine birdies and two bogeys on the afternoon. “I have put myself in good positions all season, I just haven’t been able to finish strong on the weekend. That’s something I am really going to try to do here.”
Over the years of this event in the Sunflower State, high winds have become a staple. From gusts up to 45 mph causing suspensions of play, to Mother Nature howling across the plains, what is known as the “norm” was anything but that today.
“Last year was a totally different tournament, a lot more wind,” said Jackson, who finished tied for 22nd in 2017 at 6-over par overall. “For Kansas, today was far less than average in terms of wind, I think it peaked at maybe 10 mph. It wasn’t too tough, the course is in great shape, soft and receptive, but this year compared to last is completely different so far because of the wind.”
Among those one shot back at 6-under par is 2016 Garden City Charity Classic champion Dana Finkelstein (Chandler, Arizona). The UNLV alumna found her way to seven birdies and only one bogey in round one.
Back competing in this tournament for the first time since her victory, Finkelstein said she handled the expectations.
“I had a shaky start, three-putted my first hole from like 12 feet, but slowed down and really felt like I played well,” said Finkelstein, the 54-hole tournament scoring record holder. “With how well I played here two years ago, maybe that puts a little extra pressure on me. I feel like I handled the pressure well, put a good round out there and like where I’m sitting after the first round.”
Meanwhile, Stephanie Kono (Honolulu, Hawaii) is also in the mix right behind Jackson. A 2018 winner on the Symetra Tour and currently No. 10 in the Volvik Race for the Card, Kono has not been in Garden City since she last played here in 2014.
The former three-time First Team All-American performer at UCLA went bogey-free today on the surprisingly peaceful Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
“I feel like it was always windy, but today was very favorable, probably the most forgiving round out here,” Kono said. “I have seen it get windy and that can change everything, so we’ll see what happens the next two days. If I can just do what I can control, then good things will happen and at least I’m in a good spot."
Joining Finkelstein and Kono in the party right near the top of the leaderboard is Demi Runas (Torrance, California), Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin) and Nontaya Srisawang (Chiang Mai, Thailand). It was a season-best showing for Runas, who pointed to the course setup.
“Pretty scoreable today and I was able to take advantage of some of the holes, maybe cut a few corners, whereas if the wind was up I wouldn’t do that,” said Runas, who was bogey-free until she played her final hole of the day. “I have been working really hard trying to focus on every shot and knew I had a pretty good round going. You do what you can to manage the emotions and the little voice in your head.”
A total of 66 players sit at 1-under par or better after 18 holes with second round action set to begin at 8 a.m. CT tomorrow.
MEADOW IN COMFORT ZONE WITH CADDY
One of 11 players tied for ninth at 4-under par after the first round of the Garden City Charity Classic, Stephanie Meadow (Jordanstown, Northern Ireland) feels right at home with boyfriend and caddy Kyle Kallan at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course this week.
The duo found their way to five birdies and only one bogey today.
“It is nice to not have to be out there alone and also to have someone to talk the shots through with helps me a lot,” said Meadow, who is coming off a tied for 28th result last week in the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge. “I don’t second guess myself, and not having to push around the big [Investec staff] bag is also very nice.”
Meadow has found success when Kallan has been on the bag this season. In their previous four events together she missed only one cut, capturing a tied for 26th finish at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic, ending the Four Winds Invitational tied for fourth and going solo second in the Empire State for the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic.
Furthermore, Kallan brings a wealth of experience with him. This year was his first caddying for Cheyenne Woods, currently No. 123 on the LPGA Tour official money list.
“That preparation, being ready to go and understanding what’s going on, staying engaged and in the game,” Kallan said. “With Cheyenne, coming down the stretch there was a lot of pressure. She had to play well the last three weeks, so I was there to help keep her calm in certain instances when we were trying to do too much. Letting her know that, ‘Hey, we don’t have to do this right now, you can wait later on, just play the game that we have been playing all year and see what happens.’ I learned a lot and that helps me to stay focused down the stretch here.”
Kallan will caddy the rest of the Symetra Tour season for Meadow, looking to maintain her position in the Volvik Race for the Card top-10.
“Just want to get it locked down sooner rather than later,” said Meadow, who has seven top-10 finishes in 2018, including one win. “I kind of knew it was going to be tighter than previous years judging that everyone is so bunched together. Doing the same thing I have, knowing I can go out there and win, it all shows there’s no reason why I can’t continue.”
PENTTILÄ FINDING A GROOVE
In her second year on the Symetra Tour, Emily Penttilä (Helsinki, Finland) is really starting to find a groove after a season-best tied for 14th finish in the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge.
She followed that performance with a 4-under par 68 today in the first round of the Garden City Charity Classic. The afternoon for Penttilä was highlighted by six straight birdies to open play, then four consecutive bogeys.
“It was fun and then got into a little trouble off the tee, actually decent bogeys,” said Penttilä, who did not record a par until hole No. 11. “Keeping it interesting. That’s nice confirmation of the good work I’m putting in, how I’m doing the right stuff.”
After missing the cut in nine of her first 11 starts on Tour this year, the former Tulane University standout credits her coaches Ola Marcus and Ola Lindgren in helping get her back to a high level.
“We’ve been working really consistently on my game, the technical aspects but also some mental, foundational stuff,” Penttilä said. “How I feel out there, I’m really in the moment and that’s helping me score better. A lot of consistent work, nothing special or crazy.”
Lindgren provides the vision, while Marcus aids with the everyday work. The process started to come full circle when Marcus attended the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship last month to further restore trust and confidence in her game.
The results have started to speak for themselves, as Penttilä has put herself in contention to make a third consecutive cut, only three shots back of the lead heading into the second round at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
“I think I was mentally so off and not enjoying it so much,” said Penttilä. “Now I’m just playing and all that mental work I’ve done over the past two months is showing off. It’s not like it magically happened, I’ve been really working toward it.”