Burkey Leads, Trio of Players One Stroke Back After First Round September 26, 2015 | NASHVILLE, TENN. By Christina Lance, USGA

Martha Leach said she was happy with her game after navigating the demanding greens of Hillwood and shooting a 1-over 73. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 26, 2015) – Ginny Burkey, 60, of Eugene, Ore., shot an even-par 72 on Saturday and holds a one-stroke lead after the first round of stroke play at the 2015 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, being conducted at the 5,857-yard Hillwood Country Club.

Burkey, a Seattle-based flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, started her round on Hole 10 and turned at even par on Hillwood’s Dick Wilson-designed layout. But her momentum was immediately challenged at the turn, as she nearly found water on her second shot at the par-4 first hole.

“I was in some fluff and I took the extra club and I got it on the green,” said Burkey, who is competing in her first Senior Women’s Amateur since 2010, when she reached the Round of 32. “Then I made a 30-footer for birdie and I thought, that was not a birdie hole! But I’ll take it.”

That unconventional birdie, her second of the day, was offset by a bogey on the par-5 third hole but still good enough to bring Burkey into the clubhouse with the first-round lead. She pointed to her steady play on Hillwood’s difficult greens as the key to her strong performance.

“The big thing is I got in the middle of the green, and that’s what you need to do on this course,” said Burkey. “My whole deal today was to slow down and hit the green and hit in the middle because you don’t know which way it’s going to go after that.”

Three players sit one stroke behind Burkey at 1-over 73: Jean Cheszek, 57, of Palatine, Ill.; Mary Ann Hayward, 55, of Aurora, Ontario, Canada; and Martha Leach, 53, of Hebron, Ky.

Hayward, the 2005 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and a member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, started on the 10th hole and made the turn at 1-under 35. Three bogeys over her next six holes dropped her down the leader board, but a clutch birdie at No. 9 boost her into a tie for second.

“I had a couple of iron shots on the wrong side of the pins,” said Hayward, who has represented Canada eight times at the Women’s World Amateur Golf Championship. “A couple of hiccups – could have been better, could have been worse I suppose.”

Leach, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and 2011 runner-up, went to the 17th tee at even par and tied for the lead. But a poorly hit second shot ended up in the water on the par-5 17th and her ensuing bogey dropped her into a second-place tie.

“I got a lot out of my game today,” said Leach, the younger sister of six-time USGA champion Hollis Stacy. “I hit a lot of good shots, made a lot of good putts. I had two putts that cost me bogey, but overall I’m really happy with my game.” 

Caryn Wilson, 54, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., sits in solo fifth at 2-over 74, which was the best score of those who teed off in the morning. Seven players are tied for sixth at 4-over 76, including six-time USGA champion Ellen Port, three-time Senior Women's Amateur champion Diane Lang and 2013 Senior Women’s Amateur runner-up Sue Cohn.

Joan Higgins, who won the 2014 Senior Women’s Amateur at Hollywood Golf Club in New Jersey, opened her title defense with a 5-over 77 and is tied for 13th. Terri Frohnmayer, the 2011 Senior Women’s Amateur champion at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn., is tied for 68th at 11-over 83.

Following tomorrow's second round of stroke play, the low 64 scorers will advance to match play, which begins on Monday.

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