With 18 holes in the books at Stage I of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, it is 16-year-old amateur Min A Yoon (Seoul, Republic of Korea) pacing the 359-player field after carding a bogey-free, 7-under par 65 at Marriott’s Shadow Ridge Golf Club.
“I focused on course management because this is my first time here,” Yoon said, through her translator, coach and father Young Jin. “Tried to make pars and on the first hole, had an opportunity for birdie. My shots were good and had many more birdie chances, it almost felt lucky. On the par-5 16th, made an eagle and that was fortunate. Just always went for a good shot and that was the primary focus.”
The low round of the day from the Dinah Shore Tournament Course and Arnold Palmer Signature Course at Mission Hills Country Club came from Ana Ruiz (Chihuahua, Mexico). She holds down the fort in solo second, just one shot back of the lead following her 6-under par 66 on the Arnold Palmer track.
Even though Ruiz graduated from the University of Oklahoma in the spring of 2018, it is her first time competing in Coachella Valley at Stage I. She had intentions of beginning her professional career around this time last year, but an invitation to the World Amateur Team Championships at the Carton House in Maynooth, Ireland stalled the process.
“The two dates were really close, so I decided to go play the World Am,” Ruiz said. “It was really worth it and one of the best experiences of my career. So cool to play in a team atmosphere and for country with two others. I turned pro in January and have been preparing all year for this, including mini tour events. My putting really worked well today, good touch around the greens and that helped to make birdies.”
Meanwhile, a group of five players posted an opening round of 67 and sit at 5-under par. Among them is Riley Rennell (Columbia, Tennessee), who made eight starts on the Women’s All Pro Tour (WAPT) in the organization’s inaugural campaign. Rennell pointed out that the newly former tour only made her feel more comfortable when she stepped onto the first tee today.
“We always played on great courses and some events were co-sanctioned with the men, so the pins were tucked and provided good practice. Four-day tournaments are really great because you have to learn to play through fatigue. My status was not very good for the year and that’s why I’m here, but the WAPT provided a really good opportunity. Before, I was basically doing the Monday qualifier and State Open route, which wasn’t as often and beneficial as the WAPT or Symetra Tour.”
A total of 87 players concluded round one at even par or better, while 151 competitors are at 2-over par or better. Second round action picks up tomorrow at 7:15 a.m. PDT with individuals venturing onto a new course according to the rotation of Dinah Shore-Arnold Palmer-Shadow Ridge.
Natalie Srinivasan (-5, T3) on battling the heat with her afternoon tee time:
“Today was about mental focus for me. With the heat, it was easy to lose focus a few shots. I have been working really hard over the last month on swing and putting improvements, so it was nice to have it all together. I’m excited to be here, have this opportunity and hope to continue the rest of the week.”
Mariell Bruun (-5, T3) on competing at Stage I in 2017 and now making a return:
“I played steady golf last time I was here, but missed going to Stage II by one stroke. Since I didn’t make it to the LPGA or Symetra Tour then, I decided to go through the Ladies European Tour qualifier and got partial status with a full schedule on the Access Series. I also went to college in the United States at the University of Denver and really love this country. If you want to expand your game then you need to be here and after two years in Europe, I wanted to get back. The courses are better and suit me well.”
Jennifer Chang (-5, T3) on playing as an amateur and her mentality entering Q-School:
“Going into the week I was actually kind of nervous because this is the moment I’ve been waiting for in terms of preparing myself to get to that next level. I don’t think being an amateur relieves or adds stress. Whether someone is a professional or not, we are all competing for the same prize and that’s to keep working toward a LPGA Tour card. Today was a great start, but it was just the first day and there’s a lot of golf left. I’m sticking to my gameplan of taking each shot as its own and staying patient.”
Nicole Autrique (-5, T3) on opening play at Shadow Ridge Golf Club and recording a strong first round:
“It was good because this year has been filled with a lot of ups and downs, learning opportunities. I got here without expectations and simply wanted to give it my best shot, play my best golf and just beat the course. Made some smart decisions and it was a fun day. Shadow Ridge is a bit more scorable and open, so you could lose a drive and still have a shot into the green. The other courses are a little tighter.”