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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Six players tied for lead in Futures

Tour's season-ending tournament

A logjam at the top of the leaderboard could be expected at the Duramed FUTURES Tour's final event of the year, this week's $110,000 ILOVENY Championship at Albany, New York State.
And as players push to win the final tournament with hopes of making one last charge up the money list, a logjam was exactly what happened today when six players carded a score of 4-under-par 67 to share the lead after the opening round.
"I hit it OK, but today, the putts finally dropped," said Liz Janangelo of West Hartford, Conn., who carded a bogey-free round with four birdies to share the lead with Mo Martin of Altadena, Calif., Song Yi Choi of Seoul, South Korea, Nontaya Srisawang of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Libby Smith of Essex Junction, Vt., and Dewi Claire Schreefel of Diepenveen, Netherlands.
With the end of the 2009 season only two rounds away and players' nerves on edge, the Capital Hills at Albany course offered smooth and speedy greens and generous fairways, in spite of punitive rough. Still, the region was finally graced by perfect weather conditions and players took advantage of a good day for scoring on the hilly 6,124-yard, par-71 course. Five of the co-leaders played in the morning rounds, with only Schreefel joining the leaders in the afternoon.
Janangelo, who won twice on the Duramed FUTURES Tour in 2007, said she took five days off and worked only on putting and her short game. That focus made a difference today, with the former LPGA Tour member needing only 28 putts for her share of the lead.
But it was Martin, a two-time career winner on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, who literally battled mind over malady today with an injury to her left back and ribs. Martin withdrew from the pro-am earlier in the week and even considered withdrawing from the tournament this morning. The mysterious ailment to her back limited her to hitting only 20-some full shots since Monday.
"It hurt every time I swung the club, so I told my caddie this morning that I was going to wince 40 times and only have 26 putts," said Martin, who was only two strokes off from her prediction with 28 putts today. "I really had no idea what today would look like. I guess it goes back to the old theory of how they say, 'Beware of the sick golfer.'"
Currently ranked 11th and trying to crack into the top 10 to regain LPGA membership for 2010, Choi's scorecard featured three birdies and three bogeys on her front nine, but the Korean rallied on the back to post four birdies and eliminate the bogeys.
"I know I have to make a move on Sunday, and today, I was a little bit scared," said Choi, who hit 14 greens in regulation. "But I got good confidence on the back nine. That was better."
Like Choi, Srisawang is still adjusting to East-Coast time after playing last week in Portland, Oregon in the LPGA's Safeway Classic. The Thai player admitted that she slept only three hours last night, but still felt "comfortable and calm" in today's opening round. She carded five birdies and one bogey today, including three consecutive birdies on holes 10, 11 and 12 with no putt longer than four feet.
"I'm not thinking about stress or how I was going to play," she said. "I actually feel really good and everything was pretty smooth on the back nine, which has some very challenging holes."
Smith also birdied the first three holes on the back nine, where she started her round today.
The Vermonter finished the day with six birdies and two bogeys, but with the new resolve that took form late in the season after some straight talk from her private housing host in Syracuse last month. Recognizing the natural athleticism of the former college basketball star, the host suggested to Smith that "a good round for you is 66, not even par."
"It totally made sense and it really changed my mindset," said Smith, in her sixth season as a professional. "A huge light bulb that went off. I used to be a go-getter all the time, so what he said just reminded me that I was missing belief in myself. I wasn't competing; I was surviving."
Schreefel, who won her first tournament as a professional in Connecticut back in July, got a nice jolt of confidence when she slammed home her tee shot for her first hole-in-one today on the par-3 seventh hole.
The Dutch rookie gripped down a 5-iron on the 165-yard uphill hole and watched it bounce right and toward the hole. She never saw it land, but as she walked toward the green, she hoped it was for a tap-in birdie. Instead, her ball rested in the bottom of the cup.
But rather than letting up on the next hole, the former individual NCAA champion from the University of Southern California rolled in a birdie on the par-5 eighth hole from four feet.
"After that, I was feeling pretty good, but I knew the back nine is harder and I had to stay in it," said Schreefel, who is ranked ninth on the 2009 money list. "There's a lot of pressure on everybody this week. People tell me if I win, I'll get my [full LPGA] card. I don't want to get too much into that. I just want to play well."
Schreefel played the front nine at four-under par and the back nine at even par-35, with one birdie and one bogey.
Second-ranked Jean Reynolds of Newnan, Ga., and first-year Tour member Pornanong Phatlum of Chaiyaphum, Thailand, are one shot off the lead at 3-under 68.
Six players are at 2-under 69, including top-ranked Mina Harigae of Monterey, Calif., and No. 6 Angela Buzminski of Oshawa, Ontario. Harigae is a three-time winner this season.
A total of 26 players are under par after the first round, with 14 players scoring in the 60s.
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Weather: Sunny and clear with temperatures in the high 70s