With 18 holes in the books at Stage II of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, Olivia Cowan (Steinwenden, Germany) leads the way courtesy of a bogey-free, 8-under par 64 on the Panther Course at Plantation Golf & Country Club this afternoon.
In 14 starts on the Ladies European Tour this year, Cowan owns 10 top-25 results with a season-best of tied for second at the Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic in May. While she made her opening round look easy, it was anything but.
“I’m struggling this week because I’m actually quite ill and only played 11 practice holes on the Panther and nine on the Bobcat before today, so hadn’t even seen the others,” said Cowan, who fired matching 32s on both nines. “I was in Germany then came here and it just got worse. I’m just trying to survive, but still coming into this year I feel a lot more prepared.”
Meanwhile, 16-year-old amateur Min A Yoon (Seoul, Republic of Korea) holds down solo second and is just one shot back of Cowan at 7-under par. Her performance on the Bobcat Course was highlighted by a run of seven straight birdies from Nos. 12-18 to make the turn in 6-under fashion after a back nine start.
Back in August at Stage I of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, Yoon was the 18-hole leader. She went on to finish tied for fourth and joined 95 other players in advancing to Venice, Fla. to continue the Q-School process. Her showing today revealed the young phenom has not cooled off one bit.
“My shotmaking was very good,” Yoon said, through her translator, coach and father Young Jin. “On my first hole, I got a bogey because of a three-putt. After that, found some lucky birdies and on the par-5 4th, reached the green in two and made eagle. It was a fantastic day and my first time ever to get seven birdies in a row, as my previous record was five.”
Rounding out the top three competitors is Elizabeth Nagel (DeWitt, Michigan) following a 6-under par 66. It was a first round complete with an eagle and five birdies for the Michigan State University alumna.
The passing of her grandmother Carolee Sanford in early June made focusing on golf more challenging, but Nagel knows she is competing with one more angel on her side. Since late May, she has missed only one cut in 12 Symetra Tour starts and secured five top-25s over that span.
“I didn’t have the greatest start to the season, but thought I was playing well and stayed patient,” Nagel said. “Then came the tough time with my grandma and had to come back even more patient. I am just waiting to string three or four rounds together. I was in a good spot at Tour Championship then didn’t play well on the weekend. Now would be a good time to get it all lined up and make a few more putts.”
A total of 37 players concluded round one at 2-under par or better, while 59 competitors are at 1-under par or better. Second round action picks up tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. ET with individuals venturing onto a new track according to the rotation of Bobcat Course-Panther Course.
Lakareber Abe (-5, T4) on the importance of getting off on the right foot:
“I’m trying not to think about it all, just put a number in my head and then focus on that. I can’t really go and control what else happens out here. Try to do my part and we’ll see how it finishes at the end of the week. I’m trying to get a little better at everything, every day. It is a long season with lots of highs and lows, so always working on something different.”
Hira Naveed (-5, T4) on picking up right where she left off from a solo second result at Stage I:
“Played steady today and that was the goal, to play steady golf and we managed to do that. Just made a silly mistake on No. 17, but apart from that it was pretty good. Shooting under par in the first round is always good, sets you up for the rest of the week. Now to just Keep doing what I am doing.”
Sandy Choi (-4, T8) on another strong start at Stage II after finishing tied for fifth in 2017 and opening with a 6-under par last year:
“It’s nice that my game always seems to come together when I’m playing Stage II which is good because when I need it the most, I feel like it is pretty good. I shot 4-under par today and bogey-free, 14 fairways 14 greens [in regulation]. A solid round, very solid. I was hitting it very well and most of my birdie putts were inside six feet, so I was hitting it pretty close to the pin.”