Stanford leads LPGA Founders Cup thanks to unlikely hole-out for eagle

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Angela Stanford made a double bogey on the par-4 eighth, then rebounded on No. 9 when she holed out from 142 yards for an unlikely eagle.
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Associated Press

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Angela Stanford holed out from a fairway bunker for eagle on the par-4 ninth hole and shot a 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, the circuit's play-for-free U.S. opener.

Instead of paying the players, the tournament honoring the 13 tour founders is donating $1 million to charity -- half to The LPGA Foundation and its LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program and half to the top-10 finishers' designated charities.

2011 RR DONNELLEY LPGA FOUNDERS CUP

The inaugural edition of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup marks the LPGA Tour's first event on U.S. soil this season.

"It's hard to get over that hurdle in your head," said Stanford, playing for her foundation. "However, you got to get over that and you've got to get over it quickly.

"Having a foundation of my own, I know how hard it is to raise money. ... I know how hard it is to get people to rally around you. ... I grew up in an area where people help people, so for me not to be here would be very wrong."

Brittany Lincicome matched Aree Song at 67, and 50-year-old Juli Inkster, Sophie Gustafson, Beatriz Recari, Amelia Lewis, Mina Harigae and Nannette Hill followed at 68.

In partly cloudy conditions with the temperature in the low 80s, large crowds lined the fairways at the Wildfire Golf Club.

"We had a lot of fans out there and that always gets me kind of juiced," Stanford said. "The fans here are amazing."

Lincicome birdied four of the first six holes on the back nine.

"I don't even know what happened. It was just one after another and it wasn't like I was making 50-footers," said Lincicome, playing for The First Tee of St. Petersburg, Fla. "I drove it well. You don't want to get in the rocks in the desert."

Stanford made a double bogey on the par-4 eighth, then rebounded on No. 9 when she holed out from 142 yards for the unlikely eagle. Her 8-iron shot bounced twice on the green, rolled a few feet, struck the flagstick and dropped into the cup.

"After our first two events, I found that I was struggling mentally, and I just get down on myself really fast," Stanford said. "So after the double, I thought, `OK, I have a choice here. I can either stay down ... or go to the next hole and try to make it better.' Usually, you don't get results that quick in golf."

Winless since the 2009 opener, the former TCU player also birdied Nos. 10 and 13 and took the lead with a short birdie putt on the par-5 15th.

"I just had fun today," Stanford said, "beautiful day, beautiful course."

Inkster is trying to become the oldest winner in tour history. The Hall of Famer won the 2006 Phoenix-area event at Superstition Mountain for the last of her 31 titles

"It's not like I'm 80," Inskter said. "I know I'm completing against 20-, 25-year-olds, but I'm sure I could beat half of them on a treadmill.

"To me, it's not me against them. I try to compete against the golf course and if I happen to beat some of the young pups, then I do."

She has mixed feelings about the tournament created by Commissioner Michael Whan.

"It's kind of hard to put this, I mean, I think Mike has a good idea. I just think it's hard for us as professional golfers to play for free," Inkster said. "We only have a certain amount of tournaments and this is what we do for a living. ...

"I hate to say it, the people who lose out the most on this are the caddies. They only work a certain amount of weeks, too, and if your boss is getting zero, you're pretty much getting zero, too."

She's playing for a food bank and a homeless shelter in San Jose, Calif.

"If I did actually win this and was able to give the whole purse to charity, I think I'd feel pretty good about it," Inkster said. "But I wouldn't want to do it every week."

Top-ranked Yani Tseng, the winner of the season-opening Honda LPGA Thailand and three other worldwide events this year, shot a 73. No. 2 Jiyai Shin had a 71, and fifth-ranked Cristie Kerr -- playing alongside Stanford -- bogeyed the 18th for a 69.

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, the winner three weeks ago in Singapore, shot a 71. She won the last Phoenix event in 2009 at Papago and also won in 1999 at Moon Valley.

DIVOTS: Hall of Famers Nancy Lopez, Betsy King and Patty Sheehan played an exhibition round Friday morning. "I think Patty needs to go back out there and show those girls how to play," Lopez said. Sheehan didn't keep score, but said she made four birdies. King was nervous. "Driving to the course, I was thinking, `I don't miss this.'" ... ... Laura Diaz withdrew because of a stomach illness.