The first round of the Casino Del Sol Golf Classic was not boring. The day, at one point, saw eight players sharing first place, but when scores were final only four ended up on top. Kaitlin Milligan, Sarah White, Natasha Andrea Oon and Gabby Lemieux lead the field at 4-under, signing for a first-round 68.
Milligan finished her first round proud and full of emotion. Going bogey-free is not an easy task, especially with wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour. The Oklahoma native called her first round at Sewailo Golf Club “boring” and hopes to keep it that way for the next three days.
“I texted my dad and my boyfriend and I said, ‘I’m so happy I might cry.’ I’ve kind of been in a slump recently and was trying to let it happen today instead of forcing it,” said Milligan. “I’m pretty happy. It gives me pretty good momentum, and I’m happy with the way I started, but it’s only the first round. I’m going to keep letting it happen and not force it or do anything crazy and keep it boring.”
White had a colorful start to the round, making only one par on the front nine. The Michigan native carded six birdies, one bogey and a lone double bogey. Her back-nine looked boring in comparison, with eight pars and one birdie. To keep her head in the game, White allows herself 10 seconds to let it out.
“It’s okay to have emotions. There are a lot of people out there who watch golf and they don’t want to see a robot. We’re human, so it’s okay to have emotions and feel them, but they can’t dictate the next shot,” said White. “If I’m upset about a shot, I get it out in less than 10 seconds and then focus on the next shot.”
Oon finds herself at the top of the leaderboard once again, after co-leading through the first two rounds of the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort and Spa and ultimately finishing second. While some played more conservatively with the windy conditions, Oon looked forward to testing her game. She carded five birdies and a lone bogey on the day.
“I’m excited for them [windy conditions] because it means that I can work on my game when things go astray,” said Oon. “I was looking forward to seeing how my game would fare against these conditions, so it was a really positive experience that I did well.”
Lemieux, who has yet to make a cut during the 2023 season, opened the Casino Del Sol Golf Classic strong carding just one bogey on the day. The 26-year-old made five birdies to balance out the lone bogey and carries confidence from Thursday’s round into the weekend and the rest of the season.
“This gives me confidence overall, not just for this tournament,” said Lemieux. “I haven’t made a cut yet, so week four… hopefully, fingers crossed, I make the cut. I’m trying to keep it positive and hopefully throw a couple more good rounds together.”
The solid first-round finish has more meaning to Lemieux than just seeing her name at the top of the leaderboard. The Idaho native’s mentor, Notah Begay III designed the course in 2013 and gave her advice that she still uses on the course today.
“I love it. Crazy enough, he gave me some feedback a few years ago which I still use,” said Lemieux. “I really can’t imagine playing a different course and playing this well.”
Five players are tied for fifth, just one shot back from the leaders at 3-under. Kendra Dalton, Ginger Gould, Sierra Brooks, Gigi Stoll and Daniela Iacobelli signed for a first-round 69 and keep their name close to the top before a cut is made on Friday. A total of 31 players shot even-par or better, including the Epson Tour’s most recent winner, Miranda Wang.
Sarah White (-4, T1) on a colorful front-nine:
“On the front nine, I actually only had one par. I was playing really well and with the wind out there, I knew it was going to be tough, so you just have to know and accept that bogeys are going to happen and the wind is going to take the ball. I think I did a really good job at having a good attitude and taking advantage of the opportunities that I had.”
Lindsey McCurdy (-1, T16) on starting the first round strong:
“It was a really tough day. I thought the wind was going to be a little calmer for the start, so that was kind of my plan. I think the front nine is a little bit easier, so I wanted to have a really good start and it kind of worked out. I’m just going to focus on that tomorrow and know that birdies are still out there even though it’s really tough.”