Meadow one shot off lead after first round in Arkansas while Maguire on even par

Two-time major champion Anna Nordqvist is in a tie at the front along with Jackie Stoelting and Esther Lee.

Stephanie Meadow [file photo].
Stephanie Meadow [file photo].
Image: Adam Lacy

STEPHANIE MEADOW IS just one shot off the lead after an impressive first round in the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship.

Meadow carded a six-under 65 in a display that included four birdies and an eagle on the par-five 18th.

The Antrim woman is in a group that features South Korea’s Kim Sei-Young, Australian Katherine Kirk, Puerto Rico’s Maria Fernanda Torres and Americans Austin Ernst and Mina Harigae.

Meanwhile, Leona Maguire carded a 71 to leave her on even par after the opening round, hitting two birdies and two bogeys.

Two-time major champion Anna Nordqvist fired seven birdies in a seven-under 64 on Friday to share the first round lead with Jackie Stoelting and Esther Lee.

Stoelting, making her first LPGA start since the birth of her son last October, also nabbed seven birdies on the Pinnacle Course in Rogers, Arkansas, where Lee collected eight birdies and a bogey to join the leading trio.

“Today was really good,” Nordqvist said. “I feel like I’ve done a lot of good things the last couple weeks. It just hasn’t really paid off.

“It’s been a little bit disappointing, a little bit frustrating,” added the Swede, who finished tied for 32nd at the Women’s British Open at Troon last week. “But had a pretty good talk with my caddie and fiance the beginning of the week, and I feel like they kept me in it.”

Stoelting, 34, is making her first start in 14 months. Some of that time off was due to the birth of her son, now 10 months old, and some to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel great,” she said. “I didn’t really have many expectations. But I also have an extremely different perspective on life now that I’m a mom. So, I just was out here really trying to have fun and take it one shot at a time.”

Stoelting said she found it harder to play during her pregnancy than she expected, feeling more fatigue and struggling to find her game.

“So, I felt like (today) I picked it up from Q Series two years ago where I finished top 10. I just kind of tried to remember that event and put myself back there.”

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In her sixth career LPGA start, Lee broke 70 for the first time on tour after missing the cut in five prior events in a rookie season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been hard to find a rhythm for tournament golf,” Lee said. “I’ve definitely struggled the first few back.

“It’s nice that when everyone was in Scotland for two weeks, I was just at home and just kind of took a breather. Just kind of re-examined everything and seems to be working well so far.”

The 54-hole event featuring seven of the world’s top 10 players is being played without spectators and is the last tuneup for the year’s second major, the ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage, California, starting on September 10.

Defending champion Park Sung-hyun is not in the field, the world number three from South Korea remaining in self-quarantine in her homeland because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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© AFP 2020

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