FRENCH LICK, Ind., Aug. 20, 2016 – Defending champion Juli Inkster has company at the top of the leaderboard after today’s first round of The Legends Championship presented by Old National Bank. Inkster, along with Becky Iverson of Wisconsin and England’s Trish Johnson, each carded rounds of 4-under 68 on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort.
With afternoon storms in the weather forecast, tournament organizers sent players off the first and tenth tees and were able to dodge inclement weather in today’s opening round. The field of 58 players completed play without suspension. “We got incredibly lucky,’’ said Johnson, last year’s runner-up to Inkster in the Legends’ major championship. “I thought we were going to get annihilated when we started hearing the storm on the 12th tee, [but] then it stopped.’’
Iverson led for most of the first round after making birdie on three of her first four holes. The native of Gladstone, Mich., striped solid iron shots to set up short putts for birdie. At one point, she reached five under, but was forced to scramble on her last four holes.
“I was pretty tired,’’ quipped Iverson, a former LPGA Tour member who is now the director of golf at The Bridges course in Madison, Wis. “Golf should be 14 holes.’’ Starting on No. 10, Iverson rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt at No. 13, but she began unraveling on the front nine holes. She took bogey at No. 7 – her 16th hole – and was forced to sink 10-footers to save pars on her final two holes. Inkster had her own struggles, losing a ball on the par-5 fourteenth hole to record what she called “a good bogey.” “
That was key,” said Inkster, who bounced back with an 18-foot birdie putt on the next hole and moved into a share of the lead with a four-foot birdie on No. 18. “It kept my round together.’’ Winner of the 2014 Women’s Scottish Open, Johnson’s solid iron play kept her in the hunt all day. Each of her four birdies came from six feet or less.
“It’s an incredibly difficult golf course but, like anything, if it suits your eye, you seem to play well,’’ said Johnson, who was the first-round leader in last year’s championship. Johnson was eventually eclipsed in the 2015 event by Inkster, making her Legends Tour debut, when Inkster recorded birdies on four of her last six holes to win by two strokes.
The former European Solheim Cup team stalwart hopes to reverse that finish on Sunday. But she will also have to battle seven-time Legends Tour winner Rosie Jones, along with Michele Redman, a former Indiana University collegian and current University of Minnesota women’s golf coach, who trail the leaders by one shot at 3-under 69. Australian Wendy Doolan and LPGA Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan of Reno, Nev., are two shots off the lead at 2-under 70.
Jan Stephenson of Australia leads the seven-player Honors Division, for players age 63 and over. Winner of the division for the last three championships, Stephenson stands at 2-over 74, three shots ahead of Arizona’s Shelley Hamlin, in spite of three three-putt greens.
Sunday’s final round of The Legends Championship presented by Old National Bank starts at 8 a.m., off the first tee only. For complete scores, visit http://leaderboard.thelegendstour.com/?TID=67 For more information on The Legends Tour, visit http://www.thelegendstour.com.