FORT MYERS, Fla., April 16, 2015 – Grace Na’s final putt of the day was for the outright lead and she made it to finish at 5-under 67 to lead the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial after 18-holes. Na, a 2013-14 WGCA (Women’s Golf Coaches Association) First-Team All-American, is playing in just her second professional event.
A total of 34 players finished under-par on Thursday and 46 players were even-par or better. There are five players in a tie for second at 4-under 68.
Na carded five birdies against no bogeys including three consecutive birdies from the fifth through seventh holes.
“God was the perfect caddie today,” said Na, who graduated from Pepperdine in December of 2014. “Being the last tee time is always tough, but I made sure I hung in there and stayed focused, but I had a great group and it was a lot of fun out there.”
Na almost got in trouble on hole 16 when she hit a perfect drive, but found herself in a divot.
“I was fixing divots so I thought I had really good karma,” joked Na. “I had a really good up and down from there and then the last hole I was 195-yards out and I ripped a 5-wood to three feet so it was just a really good day for me.”
Na missed the cut and finished 10-over in her debut at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic and now she takes the lead heading into Friday.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be in the lead, but it is only the first round and golf is golf,” said Na. “I really just want to enjoy myself out there every chance I get.”
Na, who was a four-time West Coast Conference Player of the Year, turned professional after graduating and advanced to Final Stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, but missed the 72-hole cut.
“I just need time to mature and get my feet wet as a professional,” said Na. “I have no homework, finals and nothing to email professors about so it is nice to just focus on golf. The professional life is a grind, but I am blessed to be out here.”
CANCER SURVIVOR 1 BACK OF LEAD: Laura Kueny (Whitehall, Michigan) is playing to inspire this week. She wants so badly to win in order to donate a portion of her check to tournament beneficiary Stand Up To
Cancer. Kueny, who is a cancer survivor, carded a 4-under 68 and is in a four-way tie for the lead after 18.
Kueny posted four birdies against no bogeys on the round.
“I told the newspaper reporter yesterday that if I win this week, I’ll donate some money back,” said Kueny. “The whole reason I am playing golf is to give back to those that are going through what I went through when I was younger.”
Kueny was three years-old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
There were tough times for Kueny, who went through two and a half years of chemotherapy and countless spinal taps to test her bone marrow. Even when she was considered in remission with a possibility of relapse, she had to make monthly, then quarterly and then yearly visits to the hospital until she was 18-years-old.
Kueny started with a birdie and closed with a birdie on Thursday.
FISH INSPIRED BY SPIETH TO CHANGE GRIP: Texas native, Shannon Fish, had a solid first round at Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial Thursday, finishing tied for second at 4-under-par. An eagle on the fifth hole and three additional birdies helped boost her to the top of the leaderboard.
Fish admitted that she has struggled with putting in the past and decided to channel a little Texas inspiration this week with a completely different putting style.
“I think I’m turning a new leaf- I think I’m Jordan (Spieth) out there,” Fish chuckled. “Just this week I switched to putting left-hand low, like Jordan. And I putted well today, for me.”
When asked if she switched her putting style because of The Masters champion, she did not shy from the truth.
“Oh yes I did,” Fish said. “Because of Jordan Spieth…during the practice rounds I putted conventional and then last night and this morning I putted left-hand low. I said we are going to commit to this and that’s just what we are going to do”.
Taking tips from The Masters champion isn’t a bad idea and clearly it worked for Fish as she had 29 putts Thursday. Fish will look to keep her putting steady in hopes of putting away with the rest of this week’s play.
MASTERS LAST WEEK, TIED FOR LEAD THIS WEEK: Emma de Groot (Coffs Harbour, Australia) had a chance to walk the hallowed grounds of Augusta National and witness the Masters Tournament in person last week. This week, she finds herself just one shot off the lead at 4-under 68 after the first-round of the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial at Cypress Lake Country Club. Dottie Ardina (Laguna, Philippines) and Jessica Alexander (Tampa, Florida) are tied with de Groot at 4-under 68.
de Groot had a bit of an uneven start with two birdies and two bogeys over her first eight holes. She carded four birdies and no bogeys over her final ten holes.
“It was a pretty slow start, I was 1-over through four holes,” said de Groot. “I made a couple birdies late on the front nine and made the turn at 1-under which kind of settled me down since it was the first tournament we had in a couple of weeks.”
The Aussie took full advantage of the par-5 holes, especially on the back nine. She made birdie on the par-5 11th and 13th holes.
“On the back nine nothing really went wrong,” said de Groot. “I birdied the par-5 holes which is what you have to do out here to stay competitive and then I made a bonus birdie on the 17th hole.”
de Groot is trying to muster some Jordan Spieth magic after getting an opportunity to visit Augusta National.
“I went to the Masters which was definitely motivation watching the big boys play,” said de Groot. “We got tickets on Sunday night and we drove from Tennessee and spent the whole day there on Monday and it was really good fun.”
Besides going to the Masters, she also spent time with her physical therapist in St. Petersburg on her back issues.
ALEXANDER HAS CAREER ROUND: It was a career day for Jessica Alexander, who made four
consecutive birdies from the 10th through the 13th holes to take a momentary lead at 5-under. She made a double bogey on the 14th hole, but managed to stay up on the leaderboard by making a birdie on the 18th hole to stand at 4-under. It was her lowest round on the Symetra Tour.
Alexander’s putter was on fire. She made five putts of 18-feet or longer including a 35-footer on the third hole.
“I wasn’t stiffing my irons, I was just reading the greens really well,” said Alexander, who attempted 28 putts on the round.
In 20 career events on the Symetra Tour, she has earned only $2,033 and has made only four cuts.
“It is definitely nice to get a good round under the belt,” said Alexander. “Last year was a little demoralizing in some ways, but my family kept telling me to keep going so that was nice.”
She made a few equipment changes during the two week break that paid off on Thursday.
“I switched my shafts out, I went from steel fiber to stronger shafts which was perfect today because I was able to flight the ball better,” explained the former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer. “The changes helped
tremendously and I worked really hard the last two weeks.”
DEALT A TOUGH HAND, BUT BATTLED: Symetra Tour professional Kaylin Yost (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) had a tough first two years on earth.
“I was born with dislocated hips and the doctors told my parents I wouldn’t be able to walk or ride a bike, let alone play golf,” said Yost. “To be out here playing professional golf is a special thing, kind of like a miracle.”
Yost spent the first 16 months of her life in a body cast.
“My parents couldn’t hold me because my hip sockets weren’t born together,” said Yost. “I had to have two major surgeries and had my leg up in a traction for 17 days. Praise the lord, after the surgeries my hips formed.”
Just when things were looking up, another major complication arose. Her parents found out when she was two that she was hearing impaired. Yost still wears a hearing aid in both ears on the golf course.
She now views being hearing impaired as a positive thing.
“I actually love being hearing impaired, I tell everyone that,” said Yost. “I definitely play the deaf card from time-to-time.”
When Yost was young and her parents were yelling at her, she’d simply turn off her hearing aid. When coaches got made at her over the years, she’d again turn off her hearing aid.
Yost carded a 1-under 71 and is T22 after one round of the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial.
For more on Chico's Patty Berg Memorial Symetra Tour action, visit SymetraTour.com.