Alison Walshe put herself in prime position at the Marathon Classic for her first LPGA Tour victory.
But, as the name of the tournament implies, the race has just begun.
Walshe shot a 6-under 65, her best score in her four years on the LPGA Tour, to take a one-stroke lead Thursday in the opening round of the tournament formerly known as the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic.
Also daunting is the who’s who of stars on her heels. Paula Creamer, who won the tournament five years ago, and top-ranked Inbee Park, winner of the year’s first three major championships, were within two shots.
Walshe, among the top 20 on tour in putting stats, three-putted at the first hole for bogey — then took only 19 putts on the next 17 holes.
“I was like, ‘Here we go again,’” Walshe said. “Then I one-putted the next hole and got my confidence going.”
She also chipped in for birdie on the 14th hole, her fifth of the day, to jump-start her round.
Walshe came into the Marathon, in its first year under its new title sponsor, quietly. She hasn’t had a top 10 this year and ranks 55th on the money list with earnings of just over $120,000.
She hasn’t finished higher than a tie for 17th at Kingsmill. Her career best is a tie for eighth a year ago at the Kraft Nabisco.
“I’ve been hitting it probably the best I’ve hit it in a long time this year,” said the 28-year-old University of Arizona grad from Westford, Mass. “I’ve been giving myself a lot of opportunities, and it’s frustrating that I haven’t been able to really go deep and make some putts.”
Everybody in the 144-player field was tormented by temperatures in the 90s, high humidity, little wind and a glaring sun.
Teenager Lexi Thompson, who was tied with Canada’s Jessica Shepley and Creamer at 66, said after her round that she drank a bottle of water per hole to stay hydrated.
“At 7 in the morning I was sweating and I’m sweating now,” Walshe said just after completing her round around 1 p.m.
PGA: Daniel Summerhays rebounded from a disappointing finish last week in Illinois to take the lead in the rain-delayed first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Four days after squandering the final-round lead in the John Deere Classic, Summerhays shot a 9-under 63 to open a three-stroke lead. He had an eagle and seven birdies in a bogey-free round in steamy conditions at Annandale Golf Club.
Will Claxton, Michael Bradley and Jonathan Randolph shot 66.
The entire afternoon group was unable to finish because of storms that hit the course in suburban Jackson.
Kevin Kisner was the top player in the afternoon session, playing the first six holes in 4 under.
USGA: China’s Dou Zecheng beat fellow 16-year-old Sam Horsfield of England 1 up in the U.S. Amateur Public Links to advance to the quarterfinals.
Dou took the lead with a par on the par-3 16th at Laurel Hill and matched Horsfield with a par on the par-4 and a birdie on the par-5 18th to close out the match.
Dou will face Oklahoma State sophomore Jordan Niebrugge of Mequon, Wis. Niebrugge beat Canada’s Justin Shin 5 and 3 in the third round.
Former IUP golfer Sean Knapp lost to Austin Smotherman, 4 and 3, in the third round.