LeBlanc takes the LPGA lead with late spike

Canada’s Maude-Aimee Leblanc on her way to the lead in the first round of the LPGA Seri Pak Championship in Los Angeles

Canada’s Maude-Aimee LeBlanc closed with three consecutive birdies in a bogey-free seven-under-par 64 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead in the LPGA Seri Pak Championship in Los Angeles.

LeBlanc, seeking a first LPGA title, was one stroke ahead of American rookie Malia Nam, a former University of Southern California student golfer who made the most of her local knowledge by shooting a 65 at the par-71 Palos Verdes Golf Club Course.

“I felt like I hit the ball really well today, and every time I missed the green, I was able to make it up,” said LeBlanc, who teed off at 10 and had two birdies before the turn.

She got excited coming in, following up with birdies on the first and third and birdies on the seventh, eighth and ninth to move to the top of the leaderboard.

“I made some really good saves and kept the momentum going throughout the round,” she said. “Putting also went well.

Nam had five birdies and an eagle with one bogey in his six-under effort.

“You know, it’s really nice to come back to a course that I really know,” said Nam, who said she has played the course “probably over 100 times” as a collegiate golfer.

“It really helped today to know exactly which clubs I will play in and how to prepare for this tournament,” said Nam, who added that the course was “not an easy route.

“I think it really helps if you hit the ball well, and I did that on my first nine,” added the American, who was six under through her first seven holes.

“I was like, oh my God, the birdies just kept coming,” she said, calling her even-par back nine “more melodramatic.

“I still missed a couple of really good short birdie opportunities. Overall I had a pretty fun day.”

Japan’s Yuka Saso, Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom and Americans Alison Lee and Lauren Hartlage shared third place with five-under 66.

Defending champion Yin Ruoning of China shot a one-under 70 to finish in a group of 28th place.

Yin won on the same course last year when the tournament was called the LA Open. This year the name has been changed to honor the new tournament host, South Korean LPGA Hall of Famer Pak Se-ri.

It’s the first stop in the tour’s return to the United States after an Asian swing.

World number one Lilia Vu, who was hampered by illness in Singapore and withdrew from the Blue Bay LPGA in China due to injury, recorded a score of 73 in the first round.

Second-place Nelly Korda, making her first start since winning the LPGA Drive On Championship in January, opened with a 72.


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