A record day for Lauren Stephenson put the former Alabama standout atop the board at the ShopRite LPGA Classic at 8-under 63 alongside South Korea’s Mi Hyang Lee. Stephenson’s best round on the LPGA was buoyed by a hole-out for eagle on the 14th hole from the rough.
“We had no idea,” said Stephenson, who couldn’t see the ball go in after she hit wedge from 137 yards. “I didn’t want to get excited and then it be over the green.”
Lee’s previous best was a 62 in the first round of the 2016 Founders Cup.
“I don’t want to change anything,” said Lee, a two-time winner on the LPGA, “and I don’t want to think about anymore bigger than just right now.”
The ShopRite was extended to 72 holes this year for only the second time in tournament history. Nasa Hataoka and Ryann O’Toole are one shot back in a tie for third while Jennifer Song is alone at 6 under.
Brittany Altomare got off to a rip-roaring start, carding a 28 on the front nine. She dunked her tee shot on the par-3 17th for an ace, hitting a wedge from 108 yards.
“It made a loud noise,” she said. “It hit the pin, and usually when it does that I feel like it could go anywhere, but then it disappeared, so I guess that was good.”
ShopRite LPGA Classic: Leaderboard
Momentum stalled on the back nine, however, as she carded eight pars and one bogey to finish at 5 under for the day.
Lexi Thompson, the 2019 champion, shot 4 under. Sisters Nelly and Jessica Korda shot matching 68s and are five back.
While the rest of the LPGA took last week off, Stephenson teed it up on the Symetra Tour finishing tied for 17th. On her way to the event in Longwood, Florida, she stopped by to see her coach.
“We just worked on tempo and just honing my swing in a little bit,” she said. “It wasn’t too far off. Lucky since I hadn’t been hitting it as well, that kind of upped my short game. It was a blessing in disguise, because now I feel like I’ve gained a lot of confidence putting. Now my ball-striking is really good. Helped me today.”
Stephenson, 23, now in her second year on the LPGA tied for eighth in her first tournament as an LPGA pro, the ISPS Handa Vic Open, in February 2019.