Laurel Kean enjoyed a reunion with her fans while sharing second place.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
VIENNA -- This weekend is turning into a reunion tour for Laurel Kean.
"I'm seeing people that I haven't seen in a while," said Kean after she posted a first-round 68 Friday that left her one shot off the lead in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic.
A resident of Mentor, Kean is playing one hour from home, giving her fans an opportunity to watch. What they saw was a performance that put her in a three-way tie with Donna Andrews and Becky Iverson.
"I was nervous out there today, and I had a shaky start," said Kean, who bogeyed the par-5 second hole. "I was able to calm down and make a couple birdies."
Eagle: An eagle didn't hurt, either. That came on the 486-yard par-5 eighth hole when she hit a 7-wood 202 yards pin high and sank a 35-foot putt.
"It's a fun week. I've had to get a lot of passes," said Kean, who trailed leaders Marnie McGuire, Se Ri Pak and Maggie Will. "I still get nervous because you want to do well for the people you haven't seen in years."
Kean already has enjoyed the reward of her first tournament victory, which came last year. It gave her a three-year exemption on tour.
"It's more comfortable now to just go out and play and not worry about the money list," Kean said.
Confidence: Kean has been playing with more confidence, but she also was trying too hard to prove that she could win again. She's worked to change her mindset.
"I'm trying to be more of a hole-by-hole player," she said.
Andrews, a resident of Pinehurst, N.C., benefited from a hot putter that worked well in the 12- to 15-foot range.
"I left myself below the hole all day," she said. "If I was between clubs, I tried to take the one that would leave me in front of the hole so I would have a lot of tap-in pars."
Familiar: Squaw Creek isn't foreign territory for Andrews. She tied for second place in 1992 when the tournament was known as the Phar-Mor in Youngstown. Betsy King won that year on the first hole of a four-way playoff.
"I liked playing here, and I have a lot of good memories of this course," Andrews said. "This course puts the advantage back on the straight hitters."
Like Kean, Iverson used an eagle to propel her. It came at the 341-yard par-4 seventh hole when she holed a wedge from 121 yards.
Iverson, who began her round at the 10th hole, followed her eagle with a birdie at the 486-yard par-5 eighth.
"I had 197 yards to the front [of the green]," she said. "I hit a tree, and the ball went straight down."
A resident of Gladstone, Mich., Iverson was able to hit a lob wedge to a foot of the hole for the birdie. She finished her round with a par at the par-3 ninth.
"I thought I played it pretty safe today," said Iverson, whose last victory came in 1995. "Some of these greens are pretty treacherous, but the last three holes I played really good."