It felt like home for University of Alabama alumna Polly Mack as she settled back in to the state where she played collegiate golf. She holds the solo lead of the Guardian Championship in Prattville, Alabama, just under two hours from her alma mater. Mack went bogey free in the opening round, signing for a score of 6-under par.
“It feels good, really good [to lead],” said Mack. “Especially since it is home, and I want to do well in Alabama. I think I can sleep well tonight and go into tomorrow’s round smooth and easy.”
Mack sits just outside the top 25 of the Ascensus Race for the Card, with 2023 LPGA Tour status on the line. Although the German is aware of her standing on the Official Money List, she tries not to think about it while on the course. She says she goes out and plays her own game, trying her best to stay cool, calm and collected.
“I try to keep [the rankings] out of my head as best as possible,” said Mack. “I go shot-by-shot and day-by-day. That’s the best I can do, or else it will mess with my mind. I stick in the here and now.”
On Mack’s tail were Karen Chung, Jillian Hollis, Becca Huffer, Bailey Tardy, Milagros Chaves and Yan Liu. The six shot 5-under, just one stroke behind Mack.
Chung carded seven birdies throughout the first 15 holes but added two bogeys on Nos. 15 and 18, what she called a “crash course.”
“I’m pretty happy because the last couple of weeks were a struggle,” said Chung. “It was nice to see some putts drop finally.”
Like Chung, Hollis also carded seven birdies on the day. The 2022 champion went bogey-free on the course’s front nine, her back nine. After a double bogey on No. 17, Hollis bounced back with four birdies in nine holes.
“I had it going and then a little bit of an oops,” said Hollis. “But I made a bunch of birdies after, so I’m pretty proud of myself for doing that. You can either let it completely devastate you or choose not to. It’s a decision 100% to be angry or not. It’s tough in the moment, but it’s something I’ve worked on a lot.”
Adding to the seven birdies club was Huffer, who feels good about her position on the leaderboard heading into the final 36-holes. Tardy went bogey-free on the front nine, carding six birdies and a lone bogey on the back.
Opposite of Hollis and Tardy, Chaves went bogey-free on the back nine. Her six birdies on the day kept her name towards the top of the leaderboard.
“I made some good birdies from inside 20 feet or so,” said Chaves. “I took advantage of the par-fives and only had one bogey. I was very consistent off the tee too. It was a good day.”
Liu, who is ranked ninth in the Ascensus Race for the Card went bogey-free on the day. The 2022 champion made the turn 3-under through 4.
A total of 70 players shot even-par or better, including Auburn graduate Kaleigh Telfer (2-under) and University of Alabama graduates Jiwon Jeon (2-under) and Lakareber Abe (1-under).