CORNING, N.Y. (AP) — Charlotta Sorenstam has the summer off from her other job, so watch out!
Preoccupied for most of the early season with helping her more famous sister start a golf academy in Florida, Sorenstam failed to make the cut in the three tournaments she entered and hadn’t won a dime this year.
Barring a startling turn of events, that’s about to change.
Sorenstam shot a bogey-free 8-under 64 on Thursday, matching her career low, to take a one-shot lead over Beth Bader after the first round of the LPGA Corning Classic.
“I’ve been teaching and trying to run the place (Annika Academy),” Charlotta said. “I’m lucky because we’re closed down for the summer. Now, I can get into tournaments.”
Bader, who also did not make a bogey, was one shot ahead of Paula Creamer, Shi Hyun Ahn and Jamie Hullett. Diana D’Alessio, Italian Giulia Sergas, rookie Charlotte Mayorkas and South Koreans Hye Jung Choi and In-Kyung Kim were tied at 67.
Ai Miyazato of Japan, Jean Bartholomew, Grace Park and Canadians A.J. Eathorne and Lorie Kane were among more than a dozen players at 68 as more than half the field of 144 broke par on a warm, sun-splashed day with barely a breeze.
The long-hitting Bader took advantage of the three short par 5s on the Corning Country Club course and finally began sinking some putts on her best round of the year. She was alone at the top of the leaderboard until Sorenstam, playing in one of the final threesomes, made a late charge.
Sorenstam, a former NCAA champion at Texas who won the 2000 Standard Register Ping for her lone LPGA Tour victory, hit 15 of 17 greens in regulation and needed just 25 putts. She closed with four birdies over her final five holes to put at least a temporary end to what has been a forgettable streak.
“I just needed a little break from playing,” said Sorenstam, who made only four cuts in 16 tries and barely won $20,000 in 2006. “And her (Annika’s) coach is the head instructor there (at the academy), so it was my way of seeing him a little bit more.
“I knew it was in me. That’s why I never gave up.”
Although three holes were lengthened to add 56 yards to the narrow, tree-lined course, Bader’s length off the tee enabled her to make tap-in birdies at Nos. 2 and 5. She also sank a 10-foot uphill birdie putt on the 510-yard 14th hole, failing to break par only on the final par-5, No. 12, which at 545 yards played 16 yards longer than a year ago.
“I was hitting it good and having those opportunities with short irons,” said Bader, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and made 14 greens in regulation. “I was able to kind of pick my spots, but you have to place it in the fairways.”
More importantly, perhaps, Bader, in her seventh year on tour and still looking for that first victory, made her putts.
“I’ve just missed so many,” said Bader, whose putting average of 30.09 is 78th on tour. “It drives you bonkers. You just have to keep grinding and know these putts are going to fall.”
It was a banner day, too, for Bartholomew, who lost her full exempt status after a subpar performance in 2006. Because of the stiff competition that usually comes out each week at qualifiers, she has played in only one other tournament this year – she finished 62nd at the Corona Championship in Mexico a month ago – and found out only Monday that she was in the Corning field just before she was set to tee off in the qualifier.
“I haven’t really competed. I’ve tried to Monday qualify, but that’s just a crapshoot,” said Bartholomew, who had five birdies on the front nine despite several errant drives. “I kind of got away with a couple of bad drives and then got in the rhythm and played my way into the round.
“You never know what to expect when you’re not competing a lot. But I kept my composure.”
Divots: Bartholomew, who grew up in Queens, was the top finisher among the five players in the field from New York. Dina Ammaccapane of Bayport and Laura Diaz of Scotia, the only New Yorker to win Corning (2002), shot 71s, and Moira Dunn of Utica had a 74, one shot better than Danielle Downey of Rochester. … Former Corning champions Kelli Kuehne (1999) and Jimin Kang (2005) were tied at 2 under, one shot ahead of 1986 Corning champ Laurie Rinker and two ahead of 1987 winner Cindy Rarick. Sherri Turner, the 1988 winner, was at 2 over, one better than 2001 champ Carin Koch.