EWART SHADOFF HAPPY WITH FIRST-ROUND PERFORMANCE
England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff heads into Saturday’s second round of the LPGA Drive On Championship at -5, just one stroke behind leader Danielle Kang. Ewart Shadoff, who now makes her home in Central Florida, was incredibly pleased with her strong trip around Inverness.
“Inverness is so difficult. You really have to be accurate off the tee, and obviously the greens are tiny. I mean, I'm hitting the ball really well. I hit 15 greens today, which is key around here. I mean, you know, you really have to get the ball in play basically,” said Ewart Shadoff. “I hit 11 fairways today, which is pretty good for around here. I think I attribute hitting all those greens to getting it in the fairway. I have been hitting the ball really well over the past month. I started the season in Boca and Australia playing well and striking the ball well, so I'm just happy to continue that.”
This is the first of five consecutive weeks of competition for Ewart Shadoff, a longer than usual stretch of travel and various weather conditions. With a first good round under her belt, Ewart Shadoff proved to be ready for the challenge. Like most, she’s just happy to be back competing again.
“It's hard to have expectations when you haven't played in almost six months,” said Ewart Shadoff. “I just wanted to come out and find my feet a little bit. I'm playing for the next five weeks, and I'm really happy with my start and where my game is, especially around such a tough track like Inverness.”
PACE SURPRISED WITH EARLY SUCCESS
Lee-Anne Pace did not plan to be here. If 2020 had played out the way the 39-year-old South African thought, she would have embarked on a path to motherhood this year. Instead, Pace finds herself just two strokes off the lead after 18 holes at the LPGA Drive On Championship.
“I was actually wanting to have a baby, so that was planned to happen in April, and then obviously with the COVID we didn't go ahead with that,” said Pace after her first-round 68. “Then we're sitting at home and we were like, Why not? Let's have a go. I was never supposed to get into the events anyway with my status, and then we said, Ah, we're bored. Let's go play a bit of golf.”
This is Pace’s first competitive event since October 2019, after she did not qualify for the season-ending Asian Swing and also battled with a chronic hip injury. The 2014 Blue Bay LPGA winner was seriously considering retirement at the end of the 2019 season after a diagnosis with Maigne syndrome, a spinal disorder. She barely touched her clubs during the pandemic-related break, meaning today’s success came as a pleasant surprise.
“I think I played twice with my friends. I really didn't think I was going to come back,” said Pace. “Just last minute I saw I was in the event and I was like, Oh. Guess we're going. Do we quarantine? Let's think about this. The timeline was very on top of each other, so, yeah I didn't really play. I practiced last week and this week. I'm just as surprised as you.”
KO STRONG-ARMS HER WAY AROUND INVERNESS CLUB
Lydia Ko got off to a hot start at this week’s LPGA Drive On Championship with a first-round 69. The 23-year-old showed good form at Inverness Club, finishing off the day with a long birdie putt on the final hole.
“That was pretty much the only putt I holed today,” said Ko, who confirmed that she has recently started working with noted instructor Sean Foley. “Made a chip-in for birdie, and then on the par-5 I got on for two, so I two-putted birdie for that. And then another one I hit it to like 3 feet, so it was actually nice to see something longer than that range to fall in. And always nice to finish off with a birdie on the last. I think it was a pretty solid start to the comeback since Australia.”
Ko said she maintained a competitive edge during the hiatus by practicing with local LPGA Tour players in Florida. “There were quite a few girls in the Orlando area, so I played a lot of golf with them. Especially with Anne van Dam and Lindy Duncan,” she said. “I played I think even up to a couple weeks ago. Lindy and I played like four or five times a week. We would just be practicing, and we would be like, ‘Let's go play.’”
And while there may not have been a trophy to hoist at the end of the round, the friends still got in a good arm workout during their practice rounds. “We played for push-ups a lot of times,” Ko said with a laugh. “If somebody made a birdie, the other had to do push-ups. We were getting physically stronger at the same time as I guess being in that competitive mode.”
Ko said they would drop right on the green, with the maximum number of pushups one time reaching 40 through nine holes. It didn’t come without some sideways glances. “I’ve had a few [club] members seeing me doing it which is kind of embarrassing,” laughed Ko.
CIGANDA OVERCOMES COVID-19, SETS EXAMPLE FOR HOW TO SAFELY RETURN TO PLAY
Carlota Ciganda finished the first round of the LPGA Drive On Championship at -2, just four strokes behind leader Danielle Kang. For the nine-year LPGA Tour veteran, this week’s return to play is especially sweet as it comes six weeks after Ciganda tested positive for COVID-19.
“I was feeling a little sick and just very muscle achy and headache and I wasn't feeling great,” said Ciganda.
I got some fever, so I decided to go and get tested and I tested positive for COVID-19. After 10 days I was feeling fine.”
The Spanish star does not know how she contracted the virus, but she is determined to continue social distancing and other healthy practices to prevent herself and others from becoming ill.
“I'm healthy. I'm just happy to be back here,” said Ciganda. “I'm still very careful keeping the distance. I have been washing my hands all the time and just not going anywhere. Just from here to the hotel, getting some food. You have to be careful, especially to keep everyone healthy and to keep playing.”
LYDIA KO’S DRIVE ON SPIRIT CONTINUES TO SHINE
The long-awaited return of the LPGA Tour has arrived with the appropriately named Drive On Championship. While the LPGA Tour may have taken a hiatus from tournament golf, the #DriveOn spirit never strayed.
A few weeks ago, Lydia Ko surprised 14-year-old Claire Hollingsworth. The LPGA*USGA Girls Golf of Memphis member, whose own “Drive On journey” led her from the steps of an orphanage in China to new opportunities on and off the golf course, looks up to her favorite LPGA Tour player in more ways than one. It truly was the surprise of a lifetime, as evidenced by Hollingworth’s beaming smile throughout.
At the end of their virtual meet-and-greet, Ko mentioned to Hollingsworth that she would love her address to send a “signed something.” On the eve of the Drive On Championship, that little something arrived – an autographed pair of shoes.