DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kathleen Ekey, Moriya Jutanugarn and Kim Welch shot 4-under 68 on Wednesday to share the lead after the first round of the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament.
Rebecca Lee-Bentham and Ashleigh Simon were a stroke back, and two-time tour winner Laura Diaz topped the group at 70. Christina Kim, also a two-time winner on the tour, had a 72.
The top 20 after the 90-hole event at LPGA International will earn full tour status.
Both Ekey and Welch opened the week on the Champions Course at LPGA International, while Jutanugarn got her strong start on the Legends Course.
Ekey, the 2011 Symetra Tour Player of the Year, started her round on the 10th hole and carded five birdies along with a bogey on No. 16. Ekey was a rookie on the LPGA Tour in 2012 and made three cuts in 15 starts.
"I had such a good year in 2011 and I set high expectations for myself which is I guess part of my personality," said Ekey. "I've thought a lot about it, what I did wrong in 2012. I have these highly perfectionistic tendencies and part of it's my personality. I was a ballerina when I was young and ballet is perfect. Golf, maybe to an extent, is some but obviously you can't always try to be perfect."
Welch, who won Golf Channel's "Big Break: Ka'anapali," went off the 10th as well and posted birdies on Nos. 17, 7 and 9. She eagled the par-5 18th, and followed it up with her only bogey of the day on No. 1.
Welch finished 10th on the Symetra Tour money list in 2008 to earn conditional status for the 2009 LPGA Tour season. She made four starts, making her only cut at the CVS Pharmacy LPGA Challenge, where she tied for 70th. She played on a sponsor exemption for the second time this year at the Navistar LPGA Classic, but missed the cut after posting rounds of 71-73.
Jutanugarn got off to a slow start on Wednesday with a bogey on the par -5 second hole and didn't card her first birdie until No. 8. She went on to get three more on Nos. 9, 12, 14 and 16 to finish 4 under for the day. The first-stage medalist is in her first attempt at qualifying for the LPGA Tour.