No player in the history of Staley Farms Golf Club has shot a better score than Jackie Stoelting.
Stoelting recorded a blistering 7-under 65 Friday in the first round of the Kansas City Championship, an event on the Symetra Tour for women hoping to make the LPGA Tour.
Stoelting tied the course record and shattered the women’s mark by 3 strokes.
“Sixty-five is a great number, it’s my low of the season,” said Stoelting, who has won two tournaments this season and currently sits third on the money list. “To tie the record is awesome, as it’s a difficult course. These greens are pretty tough and you really have to focus and I think I did a pretty good job of that. I pulled some good clubs when I needed to and hit a lot of close shots and I think that’s key on this golf course.”
Stoelting, a native of Vero Beach, Fla., recorded no bogeys and birdied five of the first seven holes. She had multiple putts on the back nine that barely missed dropping for birdie, but she made her birdie putt on No. 18.
“I hit the ball way too firm on the 18th and the first thing I said was, ‘hit the hole, hit the hole, hit the hole’ and fortunately it did,” she said. “When those type of things happen, it’s your day, and it was definitely my day. I’m excited about today and excited about the rest of the weekend.”
Stoelting sits 1 stroke ahead of Laura Gonzalez Escallon, who became the first Belgium player to win a Symetra Tour event when she won last week’s event in Battle Creek, Mich.
“This is pretty close to the best golf I’ve ever played. I played very well last week, my confidence went up, and I liked this course during the practice round. It suits my game,” said Gonzalez Escallon, who also had no bogeys and recorded three birdies on both the front and back nine. “The greens are pretty tricky, so I was glad to make some birdies. The key here is to have good iron shots and play them on the correct side of the pin. I just need to keep playing smart golf and really think through my second shots onto the greens.”
New Zealander Liv Cheng shot the best round of her life with a 5-under 67 and sits tied for third with Emma Jandel.
“I hit my approach shots close to set up some birdies and got a few in,” Cheng said. “I was putting well, and that helped my score. I had some bogeys in there, but made some saves with some pars. It was a good day for me. I’ve shot 4-under heaps of times but never been able to get further than that.”
The shot of the day came from Emma Talley. Facing a 35-foot steep downhill putt on the 18th, the former University of Alabama golfer drilled it to save par and be in a three-way tie for fifth at 4-under 68.
“Tap it and pray,” Talley said with a laugh about her shot. “To make that one was really good for me because I missed several birdie putts. It was a bogey-free round and hopefully Saturday will be even better.”
But the day belonged to Stoelting. If she can hold her position and claim a third title, she will immediately qualify for the LPGA Tour.
“Any time that your name is on the top of the leader board is a good thing,” Stoelting said. “My goal is to win another tournament and get out to the LPGA.”