Ginger Howard shot a 4-under 67 on Wednesday for a two-shot lead through one round of the Women’s All-Pro Tour’s Lake Area United Way Championship at Muskogee Golf Club.
Howard, of Bradenton, Fla., was even par through 11 then birdied five of her last seven holes, with three straight at 12, 13 and 14. After a bogey at 16 she birdied 17 and 18.
Her best finish this season was a tie for third at Wichita Falls, Texas, in April.
The 28-year-old, who could not be reached for comment after the round due to technical issues, has an interesting story. She turned pro at 17, just after being the first black female golfer named to a Junior Ryder Cup team in 2010, where the US won for the first time on foreign soil. She turned down offers from Duke and Florida State. Chronic shoulder and knee issues took her off the LPGA’s Symetra Tour. She returned in April 2021.
Three are two strokes back — Alice Duan of Reno, Nevada, Sarah Rhee of Lynwood, Wash., Makayla Fitzpatrick of Phoenix and Brigitte Thibault of Austin, Texas.
Fitzpatrick cashed in more birdies than any golfer Wednesday — seven — but watered that down with five bogeys.
Five are at 70 — Hannah Arnold, Shuangshuang Fan of Chia, Madison Luitwieler of Katy, Texas, Loukyee Songpraset of Canyon, Texas, and Brigitte Thibault of Austin.
Former University of Oklahoma golfer Libby Winans is part of a group of four at 2-over par.
The only locals were amateurs — Layne Ailshie, the reigning Class 4A champion, and Catrina (Pearson) Morrow, a Muskogee High ex and top five state finisher as a senior. You’d think they were familiar enough with the course to mount a challenge, but due to some adjustments to the course, it wasn’t the same one they’ve played on in recent years.
The usual back nine was the front nine for the WAPT, just as it was for the APT. MGC also recently changed the route of the back nine so that No. 10 is actually the old 15th and 18 is the old 14th.
While the pros had for the most part gotten in practice on the course, Plus, the tee boxes were set to the blue tees the APT used.
“I didn’t take off work for the practice round or pro-am,” Morrow said. “Didn’t think I would need to,” she said with a laugh.
Morrow shot an 89, three more than Ailshie.
“Not sure how much (all) that would have contributed to my round,” Morrow said. “I had a lot of bad breaks and kicks that put me in some difficult positions.”
Those two tee off first today at 8 am with another amateur, Fiona Khaing of Myanmar. Howard, Duan and Rhee make up the final group at 9:50 am
The tournament is the final stop on the short fall portion of the tour, which is a feeder tour for upper level divisions in the LPGA. It wraps up Friday.