Leona Maguire got off to a much better start this week at the IOA Classic on the Symetra Tour and finds herself in T38 position after her first round.
Maguire, who is on target to progress to the LPGA proper through the Order of Merit, teed up at the 22nd stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” which took the Symetra Tour to Alaqua Country Club in the Sunshine State for the sixth annual IOA Golf Classic.
The event is the fourth tournament in the Million Dollar March, the stretch of five events to end the season with a cumulative purse of $1 million and greeting the 108-player field in Longwood was a total purse of $175,000 with the winner’s share $26,250.
Maguire started on the back nine with a strong showing that included two birdies on her outward nine but two bogeys coming home saw her card a level par 71 which sees her sit seven shots off the leading pace being set by a group of three players, Marta Sanz Barrio, Sophia Popov and Holly Clyburn.
Of the three players who shot 64 (-7) on the opening day Marta Sanz Barrio’s (Madrid, Spain) showing marks a career-best opening round performance by the Auburn University alumna in her fourth year on the Symetra Tour.
Missing the cut in back-to-back starts at the Garden City Charity Classic and Guardian Championship has provided plenty of motivation for Sanz Barrio. She entered the week in Longwood, Fla. at No. 27 in the Volvik Race for the Card and $30,012 outside the top-10, which is the cutoff to automatically earn LPGA Tour membership for the 2020 season.
“Anything to get the card,” said Sanz Barrio, who hit 16 greens in regulation. “I’m trying until it’s mathematically impossible and the numbers don’t work out. If I have to win the last two events, I’ll try to win both. I’m really motivated and really want to do well to see where I can go. Surprisingly, my irons are working since they didn’t last week. I played great and the putter is hot, so scored well.”
Joined with Sanz Barrio atop the leaderboard is Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany), who knows a thing or two about fast starts. Over her last four events, the University of Southern California alumna has shot 5-under par or better in the first round on three occasions.
“Another solid start and even had a double [bogey] in there, so lot of birdies,” said Popov. “Towards the end of the season you can get a little nervous and I tend to get a little passive with my shots, so I went at the pins and tried to play aggressive. What I learned from the last couple weeks is you don’t know what the conditions will be like tomorrow, or the pins. I’m staying patient, giving myself chances to hopefully, finally, get a win.”
The final individual part of the co-leader trio, Holly Clyburn (Cleethorpes, England) found her way to a 7-under par 64 in bogey-free fashion like Sanz Barrio. It also ties a season-best score to par, which she set in the first round of The CDPHP Open.
Meanwhile, younger sister India made the trek to Seminole County and is on the bag. A recent graduate of North Carolina State University, she helped Clyburn instill a deeper sense of confidence to lead to the low number today.
“It was nice out there, everything went really well and just found the right areas,” said Clyburn. “Putts dropped at the right time, so it was perfect. I feel so comfortable having somebody who knows my game as well as I do. I’m confident every shot that I try to hit and she’s putting that confidence back into me.”
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