Alfredsson and Pak lead Giant Eagle Classic

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The Independent Online

Dominating a course yet to mature after extensive reconstruction, Helen Alfredsson and Se Ri Pak shot 7-under-par 65s to share the lead after the opening round of the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic in Howland, Ohio.

Dominating a course yet to mature after extensive reconstruction, Helen Alfredsson and Se Ri Pak shot 7-under-par 65s to share the lead after the opening round of the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic in Howland, Ohio.

Ten months after architect Pete Dye brought in bulldozers to tear up the Avalon Lakes Golf Course he designed 30 years ago, most of the field tore up the new layout on Friday.

Heavy rains on Thursday night, patchy spots in the fairways and freshly sodded greens all but forced the LPGA to invoke the lift, clean and place rule for the 140-player field.

As a result, 75 players were at par or better.

Alfredsson birdied the first six holes and eight of the first nine. Pak didn't have a bogey against seven birdies. Both shot their lowest opening rounds of the year, Pak by three shots.

Alfredsson is a four-time winner in her nine years on tour, but has been in a slump for most of the year. She showed signs of coming out of it in the last month with strong play at the Jamie Farr and JAL Big Apple tournaments, but then missed the cut at last week's U.S. Women's Open with rounds of 78 and 83.

After chipping in from 30 feet on the first hole for birdie, the Swede hit irons to 5 feet, 3 feet, 4 feet, 6 feet and 9 feet on the next five holes - and made all the putts to extend the string. Eight of her 10 birdies required putts of shorter than 10 feet.

Her 7-under 29 on the front was a tournament record.

She bogeyed holes No. 7 and 13, where she failed to get up and down, and 18, where she missed a 4-foot par putt.

Pak won the 1998 Giant Eagle by a stroke, avoiding a playoff when Dottie Pepper missed a short birdie putt on the final hole. The Korean finished sixth a year ago at Avalon Lakes in her only other appearance.

Three of Pak's birdies came on par-5 holes that she reached in two shots and then two-putted.

A shot back were Pat Hurst, Dale Eggeling, Michelle Redman and Michelle Murphy. Hurst is seeking her second victory of the year, while Eggeling hasn't finished better than third since she last won two years ago. Redman's lone victory came in 1997 and Murphy hasn't finished in the top 20 this year after losing her card a year ago in her second season on tour.

That foursome combined for 27 birdies and three bogeys.

Grace Park and Diane Barnard were next at 5-under.

Kim Williams overcame her rocky history in the tournament to shoot a 68, where she was joined by Kathryn Marshall, Laura Philo and Jill McGill.

After the first round of the 1994 tournament, Williams was struck in the neck by a stray bullet fired by a man target shooting in his backyard. Williams played the following week, but the bullet was not removed until the following year.

The current course bears little resemblance to the layout that hosted the last seven Giant Eagle tournaments.

Eight holes were dramatically redone and all 18 greens were rebuilt and resodded. At the 14th hole, 11 acres of trees were removed. Several other holes were stretched or shortened by as much as 40 yards as the course grew by 250 yards from the one where Jackie Gallagher-Smith won a year ago.

The field has been weakened by withdrawals of players such as Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam, who declined to enter after playing several tournaments in a row through last week's U.S. Women's Open.

Only two of the top 10, 10 of the top 25, and 28 of the top 50 on the LPGA money list are entered.

Scores after the first round of the $1 million Giant Eagle LPGA Classic, played on the 6,502-yard, par 36-36-72 Avalon Lakes Golf Course:

65 H Alfredsson (Swe), Se Ri Pak (Kor) 66 D Eggeling, P Hurst, M Murphy, M Redman 67 D Barnard, G Park (Kor) 68 K Marshall (Gbr), J McGill, L Philo, K Williams 69 D Andrews, A Benz, B Burton, G Park (Kor), J Lidback (Per), P Sinn (Kor), K Stupples, J Zedlitz 70 N Harvey (Can), C Koch (Swe), Oh-Yeon Kwon (Kor), C Matthew (Swe), C Sorenstam (Swe) 71 L Bemvenuti (Bra), A Dibos (Per), G Graham (Can), S Gustafson (Swe), C Hajjar (Aus), D Koyama (Jpn), S Little (Rsa), J Moodie (Gbr), F Pike (Aus), L Neumann (Swe) 72 D Coe-Jones (Can), A.J. Eathorne (Can), Mi Hyun Kim (Kor), Siew-Ai Lim (Mal) 73 Jeong Jang (Kor), M McKay (Gbr) 74 E Dahllof (Swe), A M Palli (Fra), J Park (Aus) 75 S Croce (Ita), L Earley (Gbr), Yu Ping Lin (Tai) 76 L Hackney (Gbr) 77 K Lunn (Aus) 78 M Hjorth (Swe), M Yeo (Jpn) 79 M Baena (Col), H Dobson (Gbr) 81 M Lunn (Aus)