BRASELTON, Ga. – The LPGA T&CP National Championship kicked off Monday on the Chateau Course at the Chateau Elan, with the top eight finishers earning spots in the 2015 KPMG Women's PGA Championship.
It will also be the second time that the winner of the Senior division will get an exemption into the 2015 Legends Championship.
Course conditions set the competitors up for a great day of golf as the first round got underway. Playing in the morning wave proved to be a benefit as the wind began to pick up later in the day.
Defending champion Jean Bartholomew had no trouble during her first round – she entered the tournament with ongoing back issues, but they didn't seem to affect her round, as she posted a 67 Monday.
“The pain really comes and goes,” Bartholomew said. “But I took some ibprophen and walked a lot today, which I think helped to keep it loose.”
Bartholomew racked up six birdies with one bogey for the day. Her birdies came from great work on the green, playing with an unfamiliar club.
“I put a new putter in the bag,” Bartholomew said. “It helped me make more of my birdie putts. It was the first time playing with this putter. My regular putter I noticed was bent, so I grabbed this one out of the garage and after playing with it, I’m not sure why I let it sit there so long.”
Although the wind picked up toward her back nine, she did not seem fazed, channeling her mental strength.
“The greens are soft, so you can be more aggressive,” Bartholomew said. “And with the wind I focused better. I always enjoy this event and try not to put too much pressure on myself and just play. You have got to be smart out here. On tough holes stay out of trouble, and take advantage of the par 5s.”
Bartholomew holds a three-stroke lead over Kristen Samp (70), followed by Laurie Rinker, Michelle Murphy and Sue Ginter (71). Rinker recently won the 2014 Champion of the Legends Championship.
In the Senior division, Jan Kleiman leads after a 65. She is followed by defending champion Dede Cusimano and Carolyn Hill at 69. Kleiman finished the day with seven birdies in her bogey-free round.
“I think missed I two or three greens,” Kleiman said. “So steady, made a couple of long putts and made all the putts you're supposed to make”.
Consistent and efficient putting proved to be an edge for the leaders Monday. Kleiman plans to carry her putting momentum over to Tuesday, while Cusimano knows that she is getting confidence with her flatstick.
“I had one bogey and four birdies,” Cusimano said. “And that was leaving about three putts just short by one inch from the hole so I know I can get those.”
Cusimano admitted to getting assistance from Rinker, who helped Cusimano gain her confidence with her putts and consistency in hitting the greens.
“Overall I am happy with my play and I’m glad to be in this position after the first round of play,” Cusimano said.