Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow, who is looking to secure her LPGA Card for next season, returned a solid opening at the fifth annual IOA Golf Classic.
Meadow, who is in fourth place on the Volvik Race for the Card, needs a strong finish this week and in the final event next week to ensure she achieves her season-long goal and she is in T27 position after an opening two under par effort, which is six shots off the pace set by OoM leader and stand-out player of the season, Dottie Ardina.
Leona Maguire continued her progression on the feeder Tour for the LPGA as she carded an opening round of one under par to sit in T40 after a an up and down round which included five birdies and four bogeys.
At the head of proceedings a dazzling bogey-free, 8-under par 63 from Dottie Ardina (Laguna, Philippines) has the current No. 1 in the Volvik Race for the Card leading by two strokes at Alaqua Country Club.
The performance set the 18-hole tournament scoring mark, which was previously held by 2017 champion Hannah Green (Perth, Australia) after she fired an opening day 7-under par 64 last year.
“To be honest, I didn’t really expect to shoot low today,” said Ardina. “I was worried about the greens because I don’t read them that well when it is Bermuda grass. All the credit for the birdies and reads goes to my caddie Jay [Davey]. We had a really hot start with four birdies in a row after starting on the back nine.”
Ardina is still chasing her first win after four runner-up finishes already this season, and five total top-10s. It would be the final piece to an impressive 2018 campaign.
“We have two more tournaments and I am still hungry for that win,” Ardina said. “Hopefully this week I will pull it off. As long as I’m hitting it closer to the hole and making putts for the next two days, I think I can win here.”
In solo second just two shots back is Sarah Schmelzel (Phoenix, Arizona). The University of South Carolina alumna carded an eagle, five birdies and only one bogey today.
“It is a new week, haven’t had a tournament where I had to play practice rounds everyday coming into it,” said Schmelzel, making her first start in the IOA Golf Classic. “I feel like it prepared me really well, was very meticulous going through yardage books and getting notes. The key to success today was staying in my game and trusting the work I’ve put in. I just let it happen instead of forcing it, which has been the big thing for me as of late.”
Meanwhile, just behind Ardina and Schmelzel is a group of five players at 5-under par. One of those individuals is Demi Runas (Torrance, California), the lone bogey-free member of the bunch.
A total of 64 players sit at even par or better, while 26 individuals are 3-under par or better.