Allison Hanna’s playing schedule for the month of September left her with a dilemma: play out the final three LPGA Symetra Tour events, or break away and play in an LPGA tournament?
The decision may have been made for Hanna after she took a share of the lead after Friday’s opening round of the Symetra Classic at Raintree Country Club.
Hanna, of Portland, Ore., shot a 6-under-par 66 on the par-72 Raintree course, sharing the first-day lead with Jaclyn Sweeney of Bradenton, Fla.
“I just played pretty solid,” said Hanna, who balanced out one bogey with seven birdies. “Seven birdies is a pretty good day. I made most of my putts when I hit it close. I had just one long putt, and I was able to get it in when I was close.”
Hanna, who has played on the pro tours since 2004, has only had a full season exempt status on the LPGA Tour once, in 2006. She currently has a partial exemption, and had planned on entering next week’s LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala.
Those plans may have now changed - a win in the Symetra Classic, which pays $15,000, along with strong finishes in the final two Symetra Tour events (next week at Vidalia, Ga., and the season finale at Daytona Beach, Fla.) could vault Hanna into the top 10 in earnings.
The prize for that: an LPGA Tour full-season exemption, which presents Hanna with a dilemma.
“If I was to win or even finish in the top three here, then I’d consider skipping (the LPGA event),” said Hanna, who is 43rd in Symetra Tour earnings with $10,021.
“But it was a good day. I was trying not to think too much about the score, and seeing how well things would go.”
Sweeney, who won the Symetra Tour event in Albany, N.Y., six weeks ago, had six birdies, including three on the final four holes, and no bogeys for her lowest-scoring round of the year.
“I’ve had a little bit of jitters closing out a round the last few tournaments,” Sweeney said. “But this was a solid round. I hit the ball well, and I stayed really calm. I just thought about how many birdies I could make in a row, and that worked out pretty well.”
Nicole Smith, of Riverside, Calif., had a round-best eight birdies to overcome three bogeys and finish at 67, leading a group of 13 players within four strokes of the leaders. Among them are 2012 Symetra Tour event winners Megan McChrystal of Stuart, Fla., and Kristie Smith of Perth, Australia, who are in a six-way tie at 69, and Julia Boland of Tamworth, Australia, who is in a six-way tie at 70.
Wake Forest graduate Cheyenne Woods, the niece of 14-time major winner Tiger Woods, was up and down in her Symetra Tour debut. She opened with a bogey on the first hole, and added two more on the back nine - including a double bogey on the par-4 No. 13 to offset four birdies for an even-par 72.