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Circling Raven Championship: Wannasaen holds one-shot lead after first round

| August 26, 2023 1:20 AM

WORLEY — In just her second start on the Epson Tour this year at the Circling Raven Championship, Epson and LPGA Tour rookie Chanettee Wannasaen finds herself at the top of the leaderboard.

The Thailand native dominated Circling Raven Golf Course, signing for a first-round 5-under, 67. Wannasaen has shot under par multiple times this year, on both tours on which she competes, but was especially excited to go low on Friday in the first round.

“Today was a great day. I made six birdies and only one bogey,” said Wannasaen. “It was a great round for me. This year I was shooting under par a lot, but to go 5 under par makes me happy.”

Wannasaen is hoping for another low round tomorrow, claiming she can make more birdies – maybe even more than the six she carded in on day one in Idaho.

“Tomorrow I will do my best,” said Wannasaen. “This is my second Epson Tour event, and I think I can make more birdies.”

Unable to catch Wannasaen, sitting one shot behind, are 10 players. Kaitlyn Papp Budde, Nataliya Guseva, Gigi Stoll, Alana Uriell, Amelia Williamson, Angelica Moresco, Yue Ren, Michelle Zhang, Minji Kang and Min A Yoon all signed for 4-under, 68s and will look to overtake Wannasaen on Saturday.

Two of the 10 in a share of second carded a clean, bogey-free round. Zhang and Yoon avoided mistakes, which Zhang attributes to a week off spent working with her coach. The Epson Tour rookie, who turned professional after her freshman season at Southern Methodist University, saw improvement in her chipping and with 3-wood, a part of her game that she felt has been lacking the past few tournaments. With consistent play this weekend, the People’s Republic of China native could be able to cross a big goal off her list.

“Playing with some great players (in college) and with great players now, it’s just trusting what I can do,” said Zhang. “I would love to pick up a win or ideally finish in the top-35 and be exempt (into Q-Series).”

Stoll and Uriell are grouped together for the first two rounds and fed off each other on Friday to build momentum and stay in contention. Stoll had fun throughout the day but was especially thankful for that momentum on the 18th green. The University of Arizona alumna drained a long putt for par to stay with Uriell in a tie for second.

“It was fun to play with someone else who was making a bunch of birdies,” said Stoll. “It kept the momentum of the round going. I would have a birdie, then she would have a birdie. We just kept going back and forth. I think in a scramble, we were 20-under, but it was fun and kept the momentum going.”

Former University of Idaho standout Sophie Hausmann eagled the sixth hole and finished 3-under, tied for seventh.

“I have two favorite holes on this golf course, and that’s one of them," Hausmann said. "Even if I don’t hit it right off the tee, I really like the tee shot. I think it’s pretty. I had 132 in and downhill. The pin was pretty far back, and I know on this hole you want to be below the pin. I hit a good wedge, and I liked it as soon as I hit it. I thought it was going to be a few yards short, but it kept rolling and looked pretty good on line from where I could see it from, and it went in.”