PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida – Andrew Stephens of Union, Kentucky, and Lisa Grimes of Gold Canyon, Arizona, lead the Stroke Play and Women’s Stroke Play Championships, respectively. Both PGA Winter Championships are being held at PGA Golf Club.
Stephens was elected into PGA of America membership on January 4, 2018. One month later, he leads by one in his first event since the honor was made official. Stephens recovered from an early bogey en route to a 5-under-par 67 on the Wanamaker Course.
“I got off to a decent start, made some good pars but hit into a bunker on 4,” said Stephens, PGA Director of Instruction at The Stephens Golf Academy in Burlington, Kentucky. “Really hard bunker shot and actually did well just to make bogey. It didn’t really deter me too much. I figured I’d have my opportunities.”
Stephens figured correctly and took advantage of his scoring chances with six birdies on his card, including three of the four par 5s. The rookie PGA member made his presence felt on Sunday, despite having teed it up only six times in the past two months.
“Honestly, I didn’t have super high expectations coming in because I just haven’t played that much,” said Stephens. “We’ve had a pretty rough winter.”
Trailing by one stroke is the reigning Senior PGA Professional Champion, Frank Esposito Jr. The PGA Teaching Professional from Old Bridge, New Jersey, posted five birdies and a bogey, good for a 4-under-par 68.
Rounding out the top five are: Scott Berliner of Queensbury, New York (3, 69); Danny Balin of Rockville, Maryland (T4, 70); Craig Czerniejewski of Hartford, Wisconsin (T4, 70); Ron Philo of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida (T4, 70); and Jeff Sorenson of Blaine, Minnesota (T4, 70).
The top 38 and ties after the second round will continue to play Tuesday’s final round of the Stroke Play Championship.
Super Bowl Sunday was a day well spent for Lisa Grimes. The Director of Instruction at Alexandria (Minn.) Golf Club shot a 5-under 67 and is the first-round leader in the Women’s Stroke Play Championship, which opened on the Ryder Course.
It could have been a perfect day for Grimes, however, except her hometown Vikings were bulldozed by the Eagles two weeks ago, and thus denied the opportunity to become the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home venue.
Without the weight of a vested interest in today’s football holiday, Grimes (33-34, 67) littered her scorecard with six birdies against just one blemish, a bogey on the par-4 18th, where she failed to get up-and-down out of a bunker.
“(Saturday’s) practice round was my first full round in about three weeks, so it is always nice to get some competition in. It’s been nice in Arizona lately, and it was a challenge playing in this Florida wind,” said Grimes, who was then informed that the Treasure Coast’s winds Sunday were relatively tame. “The greens were firm – we knew that coming in – and rolled perfect. So good, in fact, we needed to be making these putts, assuming we’re reading them correctly.”
PGA of America Vice President Suzy Whaley of Cromwell, Connecticut/Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Jessica Carafiello of Old Greenwich, Connecticut; and Nathalie Filler of Palm Beach Gardens all posted 72s and are tied for second place, five shots behind Grimes.
Four of Grimes’ six birdies Sunday came on par-4s. And her birdies came in bunches: Ryder’s Nos. 8 and 9 in the front side, and holes 15, 16 and 17 on her inward 9.
Grimes, the 2016 LPGA T&CP National Champi¬on, credited her flat stick for the solid results.
“I made a few putts when I needed to, and I hit one real close on 16 and made the four-footer. I’ll take it.”
The winner of the 2018 Women’s Stroke Play Championship gains an exemption into this summer’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which will be contested June 28 – July 1 at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois.
The PGA Winter Championships, conducted by the PGA of America, are presented by Golf Advisor and PrimeSport.