BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) _ Nicole Castrale shot a 4-under 67 in muddy conditions Friday to take the first-round lead in the SemGroup Championship.
In search of her first LPGA Tour win, Castrale had the only bogey-free round of the day to take a one-stroke edge over Brandie Burton, Angela Stanford and former Oklahoma State star Karin Sjodin.
Castrale got a favorable kick off a ridge at the 13th hole, then made a 4-foot birdie putt to get to 4 under. After hitting into a greenside bunker at No. 17, she maintained her lead with a par-saving 15-footer.
The 28-year-old former Southern California player had 20 players within three strokes of her on the leaderboard, including top-ranked Lorena Ochoa, Kraft Nabisco champion Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer and Se Ri Pak.
``You really can't think that you have the lead,'' Castrale said. ``You just have to execute shots. I can play well and not win or I can play well and win, so really all I can do is control myself.''
The best finish of Castrale's career was a third at the Honda LPGA Thailand in October. Before that, she finished fourth in the Fields Open last February, but then missed the cut in four of her next six events. She hasn't missed another cut since, and added another fourth-place finish to her resume last month at the Ginn Open.
``I just try to keep it real simple. I got off to a pretty good start this year, and I just figured if I keep doing what I'm doing, good things will happen,'' Castrale said.
Castrale chipped in for birdie after an errant 8-iron shot at No. 3, then followed it with a 25-foot birdie putt at the fourth hole. She added another birdie at No. 7 before making the turn.
Aree Song was the only other player who reached 4 under. She had two bogeys in her final five holes to finish at 69 with Pak, 2001 winner Gloria Park and four others.
Ochoa, who took over the No. 1 ranking last week, fought through cramping in her left hand to finish with a 70, three strokes behind Castrale. Ochoa, Pressel and Creamer were among a group of 10 golfers tied for 12th.
Ochoa bogeyed No. 3, but came back with three birdies between the 11th and 15th holes.
``I knew I needed to make some birdies and put myself in a good position, so I was a little more aggressive on the back nine,'' Ochoa said. ``I made a few putts that put me in a good rhythm. I'm going to try to do the same tomorrow on my front nine, and hopefully I will make a lot of birdies.''
Ochoa had a couple chances for birdies early on in the first round, but couldn't get her putts to fall on the par-5 fifth or par-3 sixth before tapping in for pars on both.
``I wanted to do better, but I think being in the red numbers and being close to the leaders is a good position,'' the Mexican star said. ``Tomorrow's going to be important. Tomorrow is moving day. Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, so maybe for my Mexicans I will play low.''
Ochoa said she didn't think the cramping in her hand was anything severe.
``I'm going to go and check that, but hopefully I'll be good for tomorrow,'' she said.
After two days of soaking rain, an already challenging course at Cedar Ridge Country Club was playing even longer than its 6,602-yard measurements _ even though players teed off in front of soggy tee boxes at three holes and players were allowed to wipe mud off golf balls that landed in the fairway.
``Well, we kind of had to play lift, clean and place. That's how wet it is out there. There wasn't really much of a choice,'' Pressel said. ``There was mud on just about every shaft and they haven't been able to cut the fairways because they can't get the mowers out. That would destroy the golf course.''
Defending champion Cristie Kerr, who set the course record with a 61 last year, birdied two of the first three holes and remained at 2 under through 12 holes before a double bogey at No. 13 set off a collapse. She had three more bogeys to end up at 74 and refused to talk to reporters after the round.
The LPGA is headed back to Broken Arrow. For the fourth year, the SemGroup Championship hosted by John Q. Hammons will be held at Cedar Ridge County Club. It runs April 30-May 6. This will mark the seventh year that the Tulsa area has hosted the championship. In that time, it has quickly become one of the premier events in the LPGA, attracting top players, big crowds and tons of community support.
The new LPGA leader, Lorena Ochoa, will be competing, along with other 2007 tournament winners, Stacy Prammanasudh, Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lincicome. Defending champion Cristie Kerr will return to the course where she shot a career and tournament low of 10 under par. The tournament will also have lots of depth to add to the big names attending. Nine of the top 10 and 27 of the top 30 players will compete. Three-time SemGroup champion Annika Sorenstam has pulled out of the tournament due to a ruptured disk and a bulging disk in her back.
Kerr defeated Sorenstam last year by two strokes. Sorenstam won the tournament in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Gloria Park won the opening event in 2001, and Word Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb took the top spot in 2003
For tickets, visit www.SemGroupChampionship.com
or call (918) 583-9925.
To see a description and yardage for each hole visit Cedar Ridge County Club
.2007 LPGA Schedule
View a complete list of LPGA 2007 Players
Current 2007 LPGA stats
See the video:
VIDEO: Stacy P. Returns To Tulsa
VIDEO: WEB EXTRA: Interview With Defending SemGroup LPGA Champion Cristie Kerr
VIDEO: Opening Day For LPGA Pro-Am Competition
VIDEO: LPGA Kicks Off The SemGroup Championship
VIDEO: LPGA Preps At Cedar Ridge Country Club
VIDEO: Annika Sorenstam talks about the fairways at Cedar Ridge
VIDEO: Interview With Annika Sorenstam After The 2006 tournament at Cedar Ridge
VIDEO: Interview With Cristie Kerr After The 2006 tournament at Cedar Ridge
VIDEO: Highlights From The 2006 John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic
VIDEO: Tour of Cedar Ridge Golf Course
VIDEO: Cedar Ridge Gearing Up For LPGA HISTORY OF GOLF
Golf is said to have originated from a game played in Scotland during the 15th century. Players would hit a stone around a course of sand dunes, rabbit runs and tracks using some sort of stick or club.
King Charles I popularized the game in England and Mary Queen of Scots introduced the game to France while she studied there. The term caddie stems from the name given to the Queenâ€™s helpers who were the French Military, known as cadets.
The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith was the first golf club and was formed in 1744. It held an annual competition with a silver golf club as the prize. In 1754, the St. Andrews Society of Golfers was formed. Stroke play was introduced in 1759 and in 1764, the 18-hole course was constructed. The first women's golf club in the world was also formed there in 1895.
At this time, club heads were made from beech or the wood of fruit trees. Some club heads for were made from hand-made iron. Shafts were usually ash or hazel. Balls were made from compressed feathers wrapped in horse hide. After 1826, persimmon and hickory were imported from the USA to make club heads and shafts.
Golf equipment was handcrafted and expensive. Therefore, golf was played only by the wealthy. Once metal club heads, metal shafts and gutta-percha balls began rolling off the production lines in 1848, the average person was able to afford to play golf. Both of these factors directly contributed to the phenomenal growth of golf.
Besides the few sponsored events such as the British Open, most golf professionals made a living by betting against their opponent. Professionals also earned a living from tuition, ball and club making and caddying.
In 1894, the United States Golf Association was established. The US Open US Ladies Amateur Open was inaugurated in 1895.
By 1900, there were more than 1,000 golf clubs in the USA. Chicago was the first to have 18 holes. In 1897, the first monthly magazine, Golf, was published in the USA. The USA became the center of the professional game due to the creation of sponsored competitions. However, the prominent events were still hosted in the United Kingdom.
Golf was confirmed as a global sport when it was made an Olympic sport in 1900.
The PGA was founded in 1916, and the LPGA was founded in1950.