Hen­der­son strong in France

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - SPORTS - Gra­ham Dun­bar

EVIAN-LES-BAI NS, France — Canada’s Brooke Hen­der­son is two shots back of the lead af­ter the first round of the Evian Cham­pi­onship.

The 21-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont., shot a 4-un­der 67 on Thurs­day. Maria Tor­res of Puerto Rico and Car­lota Ci­ganda of Spain lead the way at 6 un­der in the fi­nal ma­jor of the LPGA Tour sea­son.

“Played re­ally well to­day,” Hen­der­son said. “Hit the ball in re­ally good spots and gave my­self a lot of birdie op­por­tu­ni­ties, which is re­ally ex­cit­ing.

“I didn’t cap­i­tal­ize as much on my back nine as I would’ve liked to, but over­all to shoot mi­nus-4 on this course golf course, I’m re­ally happy with it.”

Hen­der­son is com­ing off a win at the CP Women’s Open last month in Regina, her sec­ond vic­tory of the sea­son.

She took a week off at home last week and said that’s pay­ing off.

“I feel like I’m back in play­ing form,” Hen­der­son said. “I tried to play the next week (in Port­land) but kind of lost some en­ergy. I feel like the en­ergy is back and I’m hit­ting the ball well.”

Tor­res is aim­ing to stylishly cap a rookie sea­son that hur­ri­cane Maria al­most de­nied her.

Tor­res, the first Puerto Ri­can player to get an LPGA Tour card, went birdie-birdie-ea­gle from the 13th to 15th holes.

“I just want to come here and play, and what­ever hap­pens, hap­pens,” Tor­res said.

Care­free laughs flowed from the 184th-ranked Tor­res, who last Septem­ber was on her home is­land when the hur­ri­cane struck.

In the af­ter­math, the Univer­sity of Florida grad­u­ate strug­gled to reg­is­ter for the sec­ond part of tour qual­i­fy­ing school. Fi­nally, at Day­tona Beach in De­cem­ber, Tor­res won a three-way play­off to claim the last tour card on of­fer.

Nine months later, the 2016 South­east­ern Con­fer­ence col­lege player of the year is rel­ish­ing her first com­pe­ti­tion in France.

“It’s awe­some to be here,” Tor­res said. “I love it, I’m like al­most rolling down the par-3s with all I’ve been eat­ing here.”

Tor­res matched a tar­get set by the 21st-ranked Ci­ganda, who had six birdies and no bo­geys on the 6,523-yard Evian Re­sort Golf Club course.

Both ex­celled on the par-5s. Tor­res played the four long holes in 5 un­der, in­clud­ing her ea­gle at No. 15, against three birdies for the 28-year-old Ci­ganda, who pre­vi­ously helped Ari­zona State win a col­lege ti­tle.

One shot back, Austin Ernst of the U.S. made ea­gle-3 at the 13th in a 5-un­der 66 to stand alone in third place.

A three-player group on 67 in­cluded Nasa Hataoka of Ja­pan, who won the qual­i­fy­ing school tour­na­ment, Hen­der­son, and twotime ma­jor win­ner So Yeon Ryu of South Korea.

Ge­or­gia Hall, a home­grown Bri­tish Open cham­pion last month, had a bo­gey-free 68 to stand in a big group on 3 un­der which in­cluded seven-time ma­jor win­ner In­bee Park of South Korea.

Top-ranked Sung Hyun Park had a tough day, shoot­ing a 6-over 77 play­ing in the same af­ter­noon group as Hall. The South Korean player, who won the PGA Cham­pi­onship in July, dropped shots at four of the first five holes.

“Noth­ing went well,” Park said through a trans­la­tor. “It was a very dis­ap­point­ing day.”

De­fend­ing cham­pion Anna Nordqvist of Swe­den and fifthranked Lexi Thompson of the U.S. shot even-par 71s among the early starters, who en­joyed the best of 27 C heat.

Fore­cast stormy rain held off just un­til the last groups com­pleted play, in­clud­ing 16-year-old Amer­i­can Rachel Heck who had a 1-un­der 70 in her sec­ond ma­jor.

“I was look­ing around think­ing I can’t be­lieve I am ac­tu­ally here,” said Heck, a na­tive of Mem­phis, Tenn., who got a wild-card en­try.

Stu­art Franklin/ Gett y Im­ages

Brooke Hen­der­son plays a shot from the fair­way dur­ing day one of the Evian Cham­pi­onship in Evian-les-Bains, France. Hen­der­son shot a 4-un­der 67 on Thurs­day to sit two shots back of the leader, Maria Tor­res.

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