Aussie rookie Kyriacou leads ShopRite LPGA Classic


Stephanie Kyriacou, buoyed by some advice from Hall-of-Famer Karrie Webb, fired a six-under-par 65 on Friday to grab the first-round lead at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

Australia’s Kyriacou, 21 and ranked 117th in the world, had six birdies on the Bay Course at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey, and was one shot in front of fellow rookie Frida Kinhult.

Kyriacou was in the first group off the first tee and set a target that no one could match.

World number one Ko Jin-young and 10-time LPGA winner Brooke Henderson — who were tied for second behind Celine Boutier in last year’s tournament — shared third place on four-under par 67, along with Marina Alex and Dottie Ardina.

Kyriacou has already stamped herself a precocious talent with two Ladies European Tour victories — as an amateur at the Australian Ladies Classic in 2020 and as a pro at last year’s Green Egg Open in the Netherlands.

After playing 21 tournaments in 13 countries in 2021 she earned her LPGA card through the Q-Series, but she has struggled in her first LPGA season.

She said a three-week break, during which she began working with coach Grant Waite of New Zealand, had boosted her confidence.

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And some advice from compatriot Webb this week has also helped.

The two chatted on the putting green, and Kyriacou said she asked Webb how she controlled her nerves.

“I just asked how she coped with it and she gave me a few tips, and looks like it worked out there,” Kyriacou said. “She kind of just said between shots to just close your eyes and breathe and listen to birds and stuff.

“Just to get your mind off it. It’s so simple but it’s very helpful.

“She’s such a legend, and for her to take the time out of her day to play practice rounds with us and just talk to us, it’s so nice.”

Kyriacou said she “didn’t really make a mistake” in a round that was “just fun to play.”

She had four birdies on the front nine and added two more coming in to put herself in contention in the 54-hole event.

Sweden’s Kinhult surged into second place with an eagle at her final hole, the par-five ninth, where she landed a three-wood from 230 yards within 13 feet and drained the putt.

“It was a good day,” said Kinhult, who played college golf at Florida State University and was the top-ranked amateur in the world. “So I’m just excited to keep grinding a little bit after lunch and maybe play some ping-pong and get ready for tomorrow.”

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