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Symetra Classic: Koelbaek starts strong, grabs 1st-round lead

A long stretch of tournaments had Denmark’s Therese Koelbaek feeling a little run down heading into Thursday's opening round of the Symetra Classic.

Yet the 26-year-old Koelbaek felt a lot better by the end of the day, especially after she shot a 5-under-par 67 to take the first-day lead in the Symetra Tour event at Raintree Country Club.

Koelbaek posted her best round in almost 18 months on the LPGA’s developmental tour, which was enough to give her a one-shot lead entering Friday's second round.

“Really, I’m still tired, because we’ve been on the road the last four weeks,” said Koelbaek, who turned pro in 2012 after finishing an All-American career at UNLV.

“I just wanted to go out and have fun, enjoy myself … and relax out there. It’s been a long five weeks, but it worked out.”

Koelbaek, who was among the early groups to tee off, opened with a pair of birdies and an eagle on Raintree's par-5 No. 4. After a bogey on No. 6, Koelbaek added birdies on No. 9 and No. 11 to take the clubhouse lead.

“I had a pretty good start,” said Koelbaek, who missed most of the 2013 season with a back injury. “(After the eagle), I kept playing pretty good. I kept hitting it real close … just missed on a few putts, but I’m pretty happy with that round.

“That’s the challenge now – keeping the focus where it needs to be on what’s ahead, and not on the scoreboard. I was in second place (in the Symetra Tour event in Asheville) after the first day, and my putter went a little cold on me. I’ve just got to focus on what’s ahead, and relax.”

Koelbaek faced several challengers from the afternoon groups, most notably Argentina’s Martina Gavier and U.S. pro Madeleine Sheils. Both had strong rounds and briefly shared the lead, only to have mistakes – a double bogey on No. 6 by Gavier, a bogey by Sheils on No. 16 – knock both back down the leaderboard.

Sheils was among a group of six players tied at 4-under 68, while Gavier came in with nine others at 3-under 69. In all, 35 players finished under par Thursday.

Cheyenne Woods, the niece of PGA superstar Tiger Woods, struggled to a 2-over 74 in her opening round. Woods had three bogeys – including a double bogey on the par 4 No. 13 – along with two birdies.

Ardrey Kell graduate Allison Emrey, now a rising senior on Wake Forest’s women’s golf team, shot a 3-over 75. Laura Wearn, who graduated from Charlotte Country Day and Furman before turning pro earlier this month, finished at 4-over 76.

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