Healthy A.J. enjoys OK day

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

A.J. Eathorne strolled off the 18th green with a smile on her face and a sense of accomplishment in her gait.

Then, the native Calgarian let loose a sigh of relief.

Mission accomplished ... sort of.

"I'm finished 18," Eathorne said after yesterday's first round of the US$2.75-million 2009 CN Canadian Women's Open at Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club.

"Six or seven more holes (today) and I'll be past what I did 10 years ago."

Eathorne had to withdraw from the event part way into her second round because of back and shoulder spasms the last time the LPGA Tour stop rolled through Calgary and Priddis Greens.

So the veteran golfer was intent on coming back to the course this week to right that wrong of a decade ago.

"It was a hard 18 holes, but I feel pretty good," said Eathorne with a grin.

"It was nice to see my parents over there smiling and not saying, 'Are you OK?' "

As for her score after opening day, the 33-year-old who now lives in Penticton, B.C., finished with a 2-over 73 -- only after she bogeyed two of the last three holes.

"It could have been a lot better," Eathorne said.

It could also have been a ton worse.

Eathorne missed all but three fairways from the tee-boxes during the round, forcing her to scramble, which she did well.

Most notably, she saved par on the par-3 14th hole after her tee shot went astray and ricocheted off a parked evacuation vehicle.

"I got up-and-down to save par -- that's a 'van par,' " Eathorne said. "You know there's 'froggy pars' and 'sandy pars' -- that was a 'van par.' "

"But for the most part, it was a tough day because I didn't make a lot of fairways. Thank goodness my short game is still strong."

Better yet, her health is strong, even if her nerves took a hit yesterday.

"I'm still nervous," Eathorne said. "It's my first event in a year -- even coming up (holes No.) 8 and 9, I could feel the nerves."

Really, feeling keyed up in front of a home crowd was par for the course for Eathorne and the Canadians.

Jessica Shepley of Oakville, Ont., admitted to feeling a little overwhelmed in just her second LPGA start. Her other was three years ago at the Canadian Women's Open in London, Ont.

"I three-putted four times and missed a couple of two-footers," said Shepley, 26, who carded a 3-over 74.

"Definitely the greens are a little different than I'm used to. I'm hitting putts too hard and not stroking through them. That's just experience."

Hamilton's Alena Sharp, deemed by golf pundits to have the best chance to be in the mix for the championship, shot a 1-over 72.

"I missed a couple of chances." Sharp said.

"I didn't really make anything out there until the last five holes. I was a little nervous teeing off, but I think that's great.

"No snap-hook drives -- not yet -- but I did have a snap-hook putt. I know I have some work to do, but I'm hitting the ball great."

Kara Meixner of Richmond, B.C., blew up on Day 1 and shot a 10-over 81. Veteran Lorie Kane carded a 4-over 75 to put herself 11 strokes off the pace.

TODD.SAELHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


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