MILTON, Ga. — A bogey-free first round of 6-under par 66 by Charlotte Thomas (Guildford, England) was highlighted by four birdies and an eagle, giving her the 18-hole solo lead at the inaugural IOA Invitational at Atlanta National Golf Club.
Entering her final hole of the day, Thomas trailed Lydia Hall (Bridgend, Wales) by one shot. However, she converted an eagle on the par-5 9th to take a one-stroke advantage into the second round.
“I didn’t have any bogeys, so that helped,” said Thomas, who begins her second round tomorrow at 1:14 p.m. off No. 1 tee. “I haven’t had a bogey-free round for a while, so that felt good. Nice eagle to finish was a nice little bonus.”
A member of the 2016 NCAA Championship team at the University of Washington (UW), this performance has been some time in the making for the UW all-time leader in career top-10 finishes.
“I’m super pumped,” Thomas said. “I’ve been through a bit of a slump, so it’s good to have a good, confident round and get a bit of confidence back in my game. Do the same thing (tomorrow) I did today, hopefully.”
Just one shot back of Thomas is Hall, who also signed a bogey-free card today, using five birdies to shoot 67. She had her game working from tee to green.
“I think I only missed one fairway and one green in regulation,” said Hall, who will head off No. 10 tee at 12:41 p.m. tomorrow for her second round. “On this golf course, that makes things a lot easier. Overall, everything was in tip-top shape.”
Continuing down the leaderboard, Dana Finkelstein (Chandler, Arizona) is alone in third at 4-under par, while Lori Beth Adams (Burlington, N.C.) follows in solo fourth at 3-under. From there, a group of five players are tied for fifth at 2-under.
Heading into the weekend, a total of 35 players are at even par or better. That includes Stephanie Meadow (Jordanstown, Northern Ireland) at 1-under, who is coming off her first professional victory at the IOA Championship in Beaumont, Calif., on April 8 and is currently No. 2 in the Volvik Race for the Card standings.
“I putted well, which was encouraging for the next few days,” Meadow said. “I’ve been struggling a little with a QL strain, so I was really happy to finish at 1-under. Just going to keep the process going tomorrow. If the weather stays good, there are a lot of birdies out there.”
Second round action begins tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. ET with players going off No. 1 and No. 10 tees.
HAGLUND CONTINUES MOMENTUM FROM LET VICTORY
In only her second Symetra Tour event, Jenny Haglund (Karlstad, Sweden) is continuing to showcase why she belongs.
Today, she fired a 1-under par 71 to head into the weekend tied for 11th. The competitive performance was Haglund’s first since April 22 when she won the Lalla Meryem Cup at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Morocco on the Ladies European Tour (LET).
“It hasn’t really sunk in, but it kind of has,” Haglund said. It was really great, the last nine (holes), when it all came together. I made some key putts and good birdies coming in.”
After 72 holes, Haglund found herself in a three-way tie at 3-under with Sarah Kemp (Sydney, Australia) and Klára Spilková (Prague, Czech Republic), the defending tournament champion. On the second hole of the sudden-death playoff, Haglund converted birdie, which proved to be the deciding factor.
Overall, Haglund’s winning formula involved hitting 76 percent of greens in regulation, a 64 percent driving accuracy and average driving distance of 232 yards.
“I was kind of calm because I felt like, after the last Symetra (Tour) event, if it’s going to happen then it’s going to happen,” said Haglund, who previously won twice on the LET Access Series. “I didn’t get nervous until I made the birdie putt on the second playoff hole and had to watch.”
The memory of shooting 8-over par in the final round of the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa has to be cleared from her mind now. Haglund was the 36-hole leader in Beaumont, Calif., before a rough last day.
She’s definitely turned her game, and consistency, around for the better.
“I’ve struggled with that feeling of belonging on Tour and all that,” Haglund said. “It’s really good for my confidence, which I’ve been working a lot with the past few years. Just seeing my name up at the top of the leaderboard is good for me.”
NA EARNS SPOT IN 2018 U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN
It has been one crazy week for Grace Na (Temple, Texas) and no matter her finish in the IOA Invitational, she has something to look forward to.
On Wednesday, Na was in Summit, N.J. competing in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open Sectional Qualifying Round at Canoe Brook Country Club (North Course). With rounds on the day of 72 and 76, she earned medalist honors to advance to the second major of the LPGA Tour season.
“I think it was my 10th year trying. I wasn’t expecting much because there was a lot going on. I had to fly out and play this too,” said Na, who went 4-over par today in the first round of the IOA Invitational. “I’m really excited, I don’t even know when it is.”
She may not know the dates of the tournament she just qualified for, but nonetheless, Na is heading to Shoal Creek, Ala., to tee it up in the U.S. Women’s Open from May 29-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club.
Meanwhile, just making it through the weekend at Atlanta National Golf Club would probably be a win in Na’s book. On Sunday, she flew from Oakland, Calif., to Atlanta, then played a practice round for the IOA Invitational on Monday.
It doesn’t stop there. That night, she flew to the Garden State, played a practice round on Tuesday, and fought through 36 holes on Wednesday before arriving back in Atlanta on Thursday, hours before round one.
“I didn’t get to celebrate very much,” Na said laughingly. “I’m pretty exhausted and not expecting a whole lot.”