PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Without Sunday football for the first time since July, Ben Cook of Caledonia, Michigan nonetheless blitzed the Ryder Course’s back 9, finished with an opening 66 and leads the PGA Stroke Play Championship by two strokes over Yong Joo of Ashburn, Virginia.
Meanwhile, on the Wanamaker Course, Seul-Ki Park navigated an early-morning 70, good for a one-shot lead in the PGA Women’s Stroke Play Championship.
Both Championships are being played at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and are 54-hole events played on both the Wanamaker and Ryder Courses.
An even-par 36 on the front 9 gave Cook little momentum, but things changed at the turn for the PGA Assistant Professional from John's Island in nearby Vero Beach. Cook’s splash started when he sandwiched birdies on Nos. 10, 11 and 13 around a bogey on 12.
Yet, that was only the beginning, as Cook closed birdie-par-eagle-birdie on the Ryder’s final four holes. Cook’s (36-30) 66 put him in the lead before afternoon trade winds kicked up on Florida’s Treasure Coast.
Joo, like Cook, teed off before 8:00 a.m. His damage also came after the turn, as he birdied four of the initial six holes on his inward 9 (Ryder’s holes 1-6). While Cook’s finish was spectacular, Joo’s was steady: three pars. Seven players carded 70s on Sunday and are tied for third, four off Cook’s pace.
Park, the PGA Assistant Professional at Winchester Country Club in Winchester, Massachusetts, had a balanced morning on the Wanamaker, which yielded two birdies and bogey on both 9s.
She trailed Taylor Babcock for most of the morning. Babcock was 3-under and her scorecard was clean through 13 holes, but consecutive bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15, both par 4s, downshifted her into a short-lived tie with Park at 1-under.
Park’s final birdie or the morning, on the par-5 16th hole, rendered separation and the first-round lead.
At 70, Jean Bartholomew of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and Alison Curdt of Los Angeles are lurking two shots off the lead.
Following Monday's second round, the PGA Stroke Play field will be cut to the Low 42 and ties. Due to a smaller field, the PGA Women’s Stroke Play does not include a cut.
Both events are scheduled to conclude Tuesday.
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by GolfAdvisor.com and PrimeSport.