Two golfers are tied for second place at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic, and seven more sit one stroke back.
They’ll have to catch Pajaree Anannarukarn.
Anannarukarn, of Thailand, led the field Thursday after the first round of the LPGA Symetra Tour event at the Links at Stoney Point.
Anannarukarn shot 4-under par, using five birdies to catapult herself to the top of the leaderboard with a one-shot lead over Jessica Welch and Katelyn Sepmoree entering the second round.
“It was a really good round, so I’m really happy,” Anannarukarn said. “All the credit to my putting today.”
Anannarukarn’s second birdie on the day came on notoriously tricky hole No. 17, an uphill, 163-yard par 3. Her tee shot landed her on the green but with a tough line, with the green sloped from back to front.
It was Anannarukarn’s putting that bailed her out.
“That was lucky,” Anannarukarn admitted after the round. “It broke a lot.”
Anannarukarn, a rookie on the LPGA’s qualifying tour, finished inside the top 10 in each of her first events this season, shooting 3-under par to place second last week at the IOA Invitational of Atlanta, and finishing tied for ninth after shooting an even par in April at the IOA Championship.
Her ninth-place finish could have been higher. Anannarukarn shot 4-under in the first round of the IOA Championship, but a 3-over third round dropped her out of contention.
Anannarukarn graduated from American School of Bangkok, and she moved to the United States less than two months ago.
“For me, I’ll just keep playing my game. Just focus on my game, my routine and everything, and just keep it simple,” Anannarukarn said. “Try to keep it simple and give myself birdie chances, if I can.”
Welch is tied with Sepmoree for second place after carding a 3-under in the first round, which included an eagle on hole No. 8. Sepmoree birdied three of her final eight holes Thursday to surge past a seven-player logjam at fourth place.
Sara Banke, Carlie Carr, Nuria Iturrios, Chirapat Jao-Javanil, Luciane Lee, Maddie McCrary and Michelle Piyapattra are tied for fourth after a 2-under performance.
Money list leader Elizabeth Szokol is tied for 59th after posting a 2-over par, which included a brutal two-hole stretch on the back nine where she bogeyed hole No. 11 and double-bogeyed No. 12.
Kayla Smith, who won an exemption in March by winning the Women’s Health Classic Junior Challege, is 8-over after the first round and tied for 131st. Smith is in front of six others, and her score is tied with seven others.