LEBLANC WALTZES TO BOGEY-FREE OPENING ROUND
After a bogey-free, 7-under par 65 in the first round of the 11th annual Florida’s Natural Charity Classic, Maude-Aimee Leblanc (Sherbrooke, Quebec) mentioned how she typically begins every season strong. This afternoon was the latest performance that backed up the talk.
In 2018, she made the cut in each of her first four starts on the LPGA Tour. Rewind back to the second tournament of 2017 on the big stage and the Canadian turned in a career-best tied for seventh result at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
“I just get excited to play,” said Leblanc. “It gets boring to me taking a few months off, so I always look forward to playing the first tournaments. Now, just have to keep that same energy level for the rest of the season."
At the SKYiGOLF Championship in North Port, Fla., Leblanc had to withdraw because of an injury. Even so, the Purdue University alumna is right back in mid-season form to open the year.
“I was playing really well last week too, but I tweaked my shoulder a little bit sleeping on it the wrong way,” Leblanc said with a chuckle. “I felt like I was hitting the ball really well last week, so it just built momentum for this week. Consistent throughout today. Missed one or two short putts, but other than that it was pretty solid.”
SCHECHTER CHASING SECOND CAREER WIN
Just one shot back of the lead in Winter Haven, Fla. is Maia Schechter(Chapel Hill, North Carolina), a first-time Symetra Tour champion at the 2018 Four Winds Invitational.
Unlike how she started last season, Schechter is finding a groove early. The University of North Carolina alumna missed the cut in five of the first six events to begin her 2018 campaign, but she raised a trophy in the seventh tournament. This time around, Schechter is striving for more success at the front of the Symetra Tour calendar.
“It’s awesome to have a round like this early in the season and really helps shooting 6-under to show yourself that you’re capable of going low,” said Schechter. “I think a win early in the season would be great. Last year, I played really well in the middle part of the schedule and thought I could have finished in the top-10 with a better start out of the gate. I’m working on picking a very clear target for every shot and just need to stay 100 percent committed.”
IACOBELLI USING COURSE KNOWLEDGE TO ADVANTAGE
In the group of four players tied for third at 5-under par after day one isDaniela Iacobelli (Melbourne, Florida), who finished solo second at Florida’s Natural Charity Classic last year.
“Listen, I’ll finish second place in every tournament for the rest of my life and I’ll never be mad about it, that’s good money right there,” Iacobelli said laughingly. “Obviously you want to win, but if I keep playing like I’ve been playing, minus the first round last week, things have been coming together. Maybe it is just early in the season and I don’t have any expectations yet.”
Her days of playing Country Club of Winter Haven go back to 2009 for the 11th annual Duramed FUTURES Tour Qualifying Tournament. The property was still the Lake Region Yacht & Country Club, while Duramed was the Symetra Tour’s entitlement sponsor from 2006 through 2010. Competing in the 11th edition of this event marks the seventh time Iacobelli has strolled the venue’s fairways as a pro.
Laura Wearn (-4, T7) on course conditions at the Country Club of Winter Haven:
“The greens are some of the best that we play on and I think the course is playing well. There is a lot of variety. There were some tough pin positions today, but there was also a lot of birdie opportunities.”
Sandy Choi (-3, T13) on how ending the 2018 season well increased her confidence:
“It feels good to be in this position. Last year, I finished really well and made the final six cuts. Coming into the season I knew that my game is right there, and I just need to play consistently. I am a lot more comfortable being out here on the Symetra Tour in my second year.”
Lauren Kim (-1, T29) on trying to defend her crown at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic:
“I didn’t really think about defending in the sense of putting pressure on myself to play well. I saw my picture on the jumbotron at the back of No. 9 green and smiled, remembering that day. It would be great if it became my week again, but I’m just trying to have fun. On the other hand, shooting another 9-under wouldn’t be so bad. Any day I can put myself in position to win on Sunday is a good day.”
- Leblanc, 30, is a native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada
- In 2006, won the Royal Canadian Junior Championship and Junior Orange Bowl International
- Named the 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year in her first year at Purdue University
- Member of the 2010 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf National Championship team
- Three-time All-Big Ten First Team selection and two-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) Second Team All-American
- Turned professional in June of 2011
- Finished T7 at the Final Stage of the 2011 LPGA Qualifying Tournament to earn Priority List Category 11 membership for the 2012 LPGA Tour season
- Between the 2014 and 2015 seasons, made 34 starts on the Symetra Tour with 12 top-10 finishes and a career-best T2 result at the 2014 Florida’s Natural Charity Classic and 2015 Guardian Retirement Championship at Sara Bay
- Entering 2019, total of 88 starts on the LPGA Tour with a career-best T7 finish at the 2017 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
- Schechter, 25, is from Takoma Park, Maryland, but resides in Chapel Hill, N.C.
- 2014 Maryland Women’s Amateur champion and U.S. Women’s Amateur participant
- University of North Carolina graduate where she was a three-time ACC Honor Roll selection
- Named to the 2014 Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) All-American Scholar team
- First-time Symetra Tour champion at the 2018 Four Winds Invitational has a total of 47 career starts on the “Road to the LPGA” entering 2019
- Host of “Birdiecast” podcast featuring former teammate and UNC alumna Leslie Cloots