Fast start key as Meadow leads on LPGA

Stephanie Meadow reacts to her missed birdie putt on the 18th hole during the First Round of the Volunteers of America Classic golf tournament at the Old American Golf Club (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images)

Needing a big week to retain her LPGA Tour Card for next season Stephanie Meadow flew out of the blocks with five straight birdies on her outward nine and shot an 8-under 63 in hot and humid conditions to take the first-round lead in the LPGA Tour’s Volunteers of America Classic.

“Sticky. I’m pretty hot, but it was a great day,” Meadow said. “I hit the ball really well, putted really nicely, so it’s a good start. “

Seeking her first tour victory, the 27-year-old Jordanstown native began the birdie run on the par-5 second and capped it on the par-5 sixth in mid-90-degree heat at Old American Golf Club.

“I made kind of three medium-length ones in a row and then like I hit two really good shots in there on the next two holes and made those,” Meadow said. “So, a little bit of putting and a little bit of really good ball-striking. But it’s been a while since I’ve put five in a row, which is fun. You don’t want to stop after three, you want to keep going.”

Meadow also birdied the par-5 13th, the par-4 15th and par-3 16th in the bogey-free afternoon round.

“It’s been a pretty tough year, but I’ve been playing well the last few months, so I just feel like if I can just have a good week,” Meadow said. “I have nothing to lose. I’m just going to go out there, make smart choices. I’m not going to be stupid aggressive, but give myself some opportunities. I believe in myself and we’ll see what happens.”

Meadow enjoys a two shot lead over Dori Carter and Amy Olson who were tied for second with 65s. Carter birdied the first four holes on the back nine, then rebounded from a double bogey on the 15th with birdies on 16h and the par-4 17th late in the afternoon. The 32-year-old former University of Mississippi player also is winless on the tour.

Olson had seven birdies and a bogey in the morning session. She’s also winless on the tour.“I didn’t get myself really in much trouble and the putter was working,” Olson said. “These greens can be a little tough because sometimes the grain doesn’t match the slope perfectly, so trying to read them can be a bit of a challenge.”

Cheyenne Knight, Ruixin Liu and Moriya Jutanugarn shot 66. Inbee Park, the 2013 and 2015 winner at Las Colinas Country Club, was another stroke back with U.S. Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee6, Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green, Katherine Perry, Kristen Gillman and Gaby Lopez. Park overcame two early bogeys.

“It was hot today,” Park said. “I started off a little bit bad today, but I was able to come back really strong, so I’m really happy with that. I was able to putt really well.”

Mi Jung Hur, the area resident who won the Indy Women in Tech Championship last week, opened with a 68. Angela Stanford, the 41-year-old player from Fort Worth with six LPGA Tour victories, also shot 68. Defending champion Sung Hyun Park had a 69.

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