NW Arkansas Championship report:

Lewis has solid first round 66

By: ANDREW EPPERSON Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018
Stacey Lewis prepares to swing during the first round of the NW Arkansas LPGA Championship, Friday, June 22, 2018 at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Stacey Lewis prepares to swing during the first round of the NW Arkansas LPGA Championship, Friday, June 22, 2018 at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers.

ROGERS -- If any former Arkansas golfer has become one of the must-see fixtures for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and its pro-Razorback crowd, it's Stacy Lewis.

As she's experienced many times throughout the years, a dedicated fan faction followed her from hole to hole as she competed in the first round of the tournament Friday. She didn't disappoint, as she shot a 5-under 66 to stay in contention heading into the weekend.

"There were definitely some I left out there, but it was one of those days I was hitting it so good that you have a lot of chances," Lewis said. "I just had to keep trying to stay patient knowing that putts were going to go in, and all in all, it was a pretty good day."

Lewis racked up six birdies on the day, including one on the par 3, No. 17 that stood out to her after the round was finished.

On that particular hole, Razorback fans typically serenade former or current Hogs with a "Hog Call" as the golfers make their way up the fairway and into the heart of the covered seating areas that surround the green and parts of the fairway.

Lewis joined the fans in the call, and rewarded them with a slow-rolling putt that dropped in the cup.

"It's super fun," Lewis said. "Seventeen was definitely the highlight of the day, making birdie there. It's just so cool ... to see people following you all day, and little kids. I've learned to embrace it and how to have a little bit more fun with it and not see it as so much pressure."

That marked Lewis' second consecutive birdie after bogeying No. 15, which was the only plus mark on her scorecard. After only one birdie on the front nine, she rattled off two consecutive on Nos. 10 and 11 to put herself in a good finishing spot.

"I feel like I never play this front nine very good, and I can't wait to get to the back nine," Lewis said. "I knew I had that back nine coming and just got in a groove with the irons."

Lewis was one of three current or former Razorbacks other than first-round leader Gaby Lopez to take part in the first round. Amateur Dylan Kim, who tied for the top spot in the qualifying round to earn a place in the tournament, finished with a 1-under 70 to tie for 79th. Amateur Maria Fassi, who earned a sponsor's exemption, was the only Razorback to shoot over par, as she finished with a 2-over 73 and tied for 128th.

Former champs

Some of the tournament's former champions had solid rounds to put themselves squarely in position to compete for the trophy once again.

Lydia Ko, who won the tournament in 2016, shot a 5-under 66 to tie for 15th. She picked up four birdies on the day, and her only bogey came on No. 12. The highlight of her day was an eagle on No. 9.

"It's not a green that you can [see well], so I didn't really know what was going to happen and how it went in," Ko said. "I could hear that the spectators were getting louder and louder, and then you could kind of sense the roar."

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu shot a 4 under after suffering a double-bogey on No. 16, and Inbee Park, the Rolex No. 1 and the 2013 tournament winner, shot a 3-under 68 that put her in a tie for 44th. She earned four birdies on the day to go along with a bogey on 12.

Yani Tseng, the only two-time winner of the tournament (2010 and 2011), played her way to a two-under 67 that placed her in a crowded tie for 59th. She had three bogeys on the front nine, but she recovered to earn three birdies and an eagle for the remainder of the round.

An ace, Gatorade

Spectators at No. 17 were treated to a rarity as Perrine Delacour, a 24-year-old French professional, hit a tee shot that took a positive bounce and dropped right into the hole for an ace.

The explosion of cheers was heard from the other side of the course and lasted around a minute before finally trailing off.

Because of a promotional deal between the tournament and Gatorade, Delacour will receive a year's supply of the popular sports drink as a reward for her ace.

Special visitor

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, a rising star on the PGA Tour, was on the course Friday to follow Moriya and Ariya Jutanugarn, sisters who are among the top players on the LPGA Tour.

He had made a promise to Moriya that he would come watch her play after she won her first tour event, which she did in April. So Friday, Aphibarnrat fulfilled that pledge.

"She's incredible," said Aphibarnrat of Moriya. "She never missed a fairway, hit every single shot inside 15 feet, which from the player to player, I can't do it. I believe that if they allow the PGA Tour players to get into the field, I'm not going to play. They are going to kick my a--."

Sports on 06/23/2018

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