Opening shot: Julie Piers of Palm City, Fla., officially hit the first shot of the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic at 7:30 a.m. off the No. 1 tee. At the same time, Mayumi Nakajima of Nagano, Japan, was hitting the first shot off the No. 10 tee as the tournament got under way under cloudy skies.
Rough hole: Nicole Jeray of Berwin, Ill., the last player admitted to the Giant Eagle field, was cruising along at 1-under-par through five holes in the opening round. She had bogeyed the third hole, but bounced back with back-to-back birdies before reaching the sixth hole. She hit her tee shot through the fairway on six and had no shot to the green, she tried to play a shot under the trees, but hit one of then and bounded into the high weeds. She had to take an un-playable lie, then still had no shot to the green. She played up short and hit a good fifth shot to within four or five feet, but missed the putt for a triple bogey seven.
Suspended play: First round play was suspended at 1:58 p.m. when lightning was sighted in the area. A heavy rainstorm followed and it took more than two hours before play was resumed at 4:14 p.m. About 6/10ths of an inch of rain fell on the course in just over 20 minutes. Lou Greco, greens superintendent, said that the greens are fine and that there was some casual water on the fairways and in the sand bunkers.
Long day: The opening round didn't conclude until 8:45 p.m. The final group, which included the lone amateur Naree Song Wongluekiet, took just under seven hours to complete their round. They teed off at 1:50 p.m. before the storm hit.
Getting an opportunity: The 2002 season has not been easy for rookie Elizabeth Bowman. She missed the cut in all four tournaments she has played this season. That's why her first round Friday in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic was so rewarding. Not only did Bowman shoot a 2-under-par 70, she recorded her second eagle on tour. That came at No. 5, where her chip hit the pin and dropped in. "That pumped me up," said Bowman, 31, a resident of Bonita, Calif., Bowman said she has had a couple of good rounds on the LPGA tour, but her adjustment since coming up from the Futures tour has been a struggle. "I'm kind of the yo-yo player," Bowman said. "I'm sitting in the locker room waiting for people to drop out. You have players not taking events off like they used to. What that means is less opportunity for me." Because the LPGA Classic field was not filled, Bowman got into the tournament as an alternate. If nothing else, the 5-foot-11 Bowman is enjoying her time on the golf course. "I'm trying to learn as much as I can," she said. "There are more distractions out here. You really have to focus. I'm just trying to have fun."
Up and down: Karrie Webb finished her round with a birdie at No. 18 for a 1-under-par 71 total, seven strokes off the lead. "It was good to finish in the red," Webb said. "I was up and down today. I hit the ball better than I scored. That's the way it goes." Webb's play was halted during the afternoon rains, making the course less than ideal. "It played a lot longer," she said. "Before the rains, you could allow for a little release. At the end you tried not to spin it back too much." Webb admitted that even she will have a hard time catching the leaders today. "There are a lot at 8- and 7-under," said the winner of 27 career tournaments. "With only two days to go, unless I shoot really low, I will not have much of a chance."
Early exits: Terry-Jo Myers, a resident of Ft. Myers, Fla., shot a 78 in the first round Friday and withdrew citing back problems. Myers had played in eight previous tournaments this season, making the cut only once -- a tie for 48th in the Chick-Fil-A Charity Championship on May 3-5. Jane Geddes, of Tampa, Fla., played 10 holes Friday and also withdrew because of back problems. Geddes had played in nine previous tournaments this season, making five cuts, with her best finish a tie for 22nd at the Chick-Fil-A.
Up for grabs: A list of 26 LPGA golfers are competing for five qualifying positions in the 2002 Weetabix Women's British Open held Aug. 8-11 in Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland. The qualifiers will be decided based on the best 36-hole score among the 26 in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic.
-- Pete Mollica, Brian Richesson