Leona in the hunt at Florida Natural Charity Classic

Leona Maguire / Image from Symetra Tour
Leona Maguire / Image from Symetra Tour

Leona Maguire is back in competition this week at the Symetra Tour’s Florida Natural Charity Classic and she’s off to a flier!

Maguire, who bagged a Top-25 spot at her opening Symetra Tour event of the season after a successful spell in Australia, finds herself in T7 position after day one in Winter Haven, Florida after a back-nine birdie blitz which saw her card three birdies and an eagle in her last six holes to move return an opening round 68 for a four-under par total.

Leona opened with four straight pars before a birdie at the fifth was immediately followed by bogey at the sixth and then another at the tenth which saw her at one over par but then things got very interesting as she birdied three holes on the bounce from the 13th before bagging a closing hole eagle ‘3’ and heading to the clubhouse.

That score sees Maguire just three shots off the lead held by Maude-Aimee Leblanc who waltzed to an opening bogey-free round of 65. Leblanc (Sherbrooke, Quebec) mentioned how she typically begins every season strong and this 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 last week 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.”

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.”