Meadow opens with superb 65 at Walmart Championship

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Meadow opens with superb 65 at Walmart Championship

Stephanie Meadow prepares to putt on the 7th hole during the first round of the LPGA Walmart NW Arkansas Championship (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Stephanie Meadow continued to trend very much in the right direction after she fired a six-under par 65 to open her account at the LPGA Tour’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on Friday.

Fresh off enjoying a top-40 finish at the AIG Women’s Open, the Jordanstown professional returned four birdies and an eagle in a bogey-free showing that sees her trail the leaders by one ahead of the weekend’s play.

Exemplary from the tee box, Meadow found 13 of 13 fairways in round one and 16 of 18 greens in regulation, needing just 28 putts to reach the clubhouse.

She’s headed by a three-way tie at the top where Anna Nordqvist and Esther Lee are joined by Jackie Stoelting, who finished tied for third a month ago in the Florida Women’s Open at Bradenton Country Club, across the Sunshine State from her home in Vero Beach.

Stoelting was one of many players who used their home-state opens as tune-ups for an LPGA Tour return. But the 34-year-old had a little more rust to knock off than most. Her absence from the Tour was longer but also a lot more rewarding than those forced away due to Covid-19.

Stoelting, who fired a 7-under 64 in the opening round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on Friday to share the early lead, has been out of competition for 14 months, in part because of the pandemic, but mostly because of parenthood.

“I feel great,” Stoelting said “It’s been 14 months since my last round out here (on Tour) so I didn’t really have many expectations. But I also have an extremely different perspective on life now that I’m a mom. So, I just was out here really trying to have fun and take it one shot at a time.”

“I think I picked up (my game) from (where it was at) Q-Series two years ago, because last year playing pregnant was a lot harder than I’d imagined, physically,” Stoelting added.

“I was just exhausted. My swing was not there and I just wasn’t hitting it as far. So, I felt like I picked it up from Q Series two years ago where finished top 10. I just kind of tried to remember that event and put myself back there.”

“I don’t put nearly as much time into practicing as I used to. But I’ve always been a quality over quantity and really just try and not overthink it. So, I told my caddie I was 50/50, really going to see how this week went. It went above my expectations so I’m happy to be here and playing well.”

Cavan’s Leona Maguire carded an even par round of 71 to be sharing 99th heading into moving day.

Full scoring HERE

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