By JAMES COOK email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — THOMPSONVILLE — Milena Savich said she had never golfed at Crystal Mountain before Sunday.
You wouldn’t have known it on Monday.
With only one practice under her belt, the first-year professional from Indiana shot a opening-round 68 to lead the Michigan PGA Women’s Open by a shot over Michigan State’s Lindsey McPherson and Elk River, Minn., resident Rachael Schmidt.
“Usually the first round is my Achilles heel, so this was confidence building,” Savich said. “My best opening round before was about a 71.”
The 23-year-old graduated from Georgia last year and turned pro in December. She’s on the Symetra Tour, as well as playing events in Canada in order to tune up for the LPGA Q School.
“I made a couple good saves for par there on the back (nine),” said Savich, who played the front nine at -4 and the back even. “I pushed it way right (on 15) and almost holed out from 95 yards, which was good. Then on 16, I hit a really good shot under a tree off the mud and missed a putt there. The three-putt on 17 really hurt. But probably my best shot of the day was my second chip on 18. After the nasty lie on the rough, I just slammed it into the ground. But that (second) chip definitely made me feel better.”
Savich, who started her collegiate golf career at Michigan before transferring to Georgia, said before Sunday, her only experience at Crystal Mountain was skiing when she was 10. She recently won the SunCoast Ladies Tour event LPGA International Champions on March 25-27 by one stroke with a final-round 72.
McPherson, a junior at MSU, shot her best round of competitive golf, pumping her fist after making a putt on No. 18 to finish with her first-ever sub-70 round.
“It’s almost a high, when you see it go in the hole,” McPherson said. “It’s a major milestone, shooting in the 60s.”
She also saw her name on a leader board for the first time at No. 14 on the Mountain Ridge Course.
“Seeing my name up there was pretty incredible,” said McPherson.
McPherson started out with birdies on four of the first six holes and then played even for the most part the rest of the round to finish at -3.
“I was really shaky on the 18th green, but I couldn’t be happier,” McPherson said. “I started off the day, though six holes I was four under. Right at the beginning, I knew I was having a day. Sometimes you have days where you can’t get anything to fall and sometimes you can’t miss. And today was one of those days.”
McPherson didn’t get in a round Sunday because she was in the Genesee Ladies Classic, where she won with a 72-72 score to win by double-digit strokes at the Clio Country Club. That tied her best competitive rounds, which she bested by three shots Monday. In three previous Michigan Women’s Open ventures, her best round was 76.
“There’s a ton of Spartans (here),” said McPherson, a teammate of Traverse City’s Gaby Muller at Michigan State. “This is a great day for me. I want to say there’s maybe three quarters of my teammates, maybe more, here. And my coach. I couldn’t have picked a better day to shoot this number.”
Schmidt was one of the few players who were able to play below par on the back nine, trimming a shot off her score to finish tied with McPherson one stroke behind Savich.
“This is my third year, and I love it here,” Schmidt said. “That’s why I keep coming back.”
Schmidt didn’t get in much trouble on the course, and was -2 after the first three holes. She finished with an opening-round 69.
“Yes, this is my best here,” she said. “I shot 74s last year every single day.
“I was just consistent. I’ve been working on my swing a lot back at home and on tour. Not getting in my own head helps. And I’ve been just hitting fairways and hitting greens, and that helps.”
Two touring professionals checked in with 70s, two strokes out of the lead. In Hong Lim, a former Ohio State golfer, birdied four of the last five holes, and former North Dakota State golfer Amy Anderson started her back nine with three consecutive birdies en route to 70.
Another Michigan State golfer and amateur, Christine Meier of Rochester Hills, shot 71. She was tied with Alexandra Casi, a Symetra Tour player from East Palestine, Ohio, and Erin Misheff, an amateur from Silver Lake, Ohio.
Five golfers ended up at 72, including Midland’s Kimberly Dinh, a University of Wisconsin golfer, and 2008 champion Connie Ross of St. Joseph was among 14 players who carded 73s.
Play resumes today at 8 a.m.