15 July 2021: It was a stellar start to the week for Pajaree Anannarukarn and Aditi Ashok. The two girls, going by ‘The Spice Girls’ brought just that, with a bogey-free 65 in the opening round of the Great Lakes Bay Invitational. They floated up for a share of the lead with Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura, Laura Stephenson and Jillian Hollis, Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda.
After the first day of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, four teams lead the official team event at Midland Country Club at -5 overall. Defending champions Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura (Team All In) were among three partnerships from the morning wave to record first-round 65s. Playing alternate shot, the two rebounded from a bogey on No. 4 to card six birdies in the next 14 holes before closing in prime position, including a 40-footer by Clanton from the fringe on No. 16.
“I made some long putts and Jasmine made some crucial pars on just the first two holes. My speed was a little off on the first two holes, which she just — she putted amazing,” said Clanton, who became a Rolex First-Time Winner with her win in 2019 alongside Suwannapura. “When the putter is hot and you’re in this format, it makes it a little bit easier.”
Lauren Stephenson and Jillian Hollis, aka Team Chicks with Sticks, along with Pajaree Anannarukarn and Aditi Ashok (The Spice Girls), posted bogey-free 65s to join Clanton and Suwannapura as leaders. Team Jelly, which features Rolex Rankings No. 1 Nelly Korda and sister Jessica, were the lone team from the afternoon to reach the top spot. Starting with two birdies in their opening three holes, the Kordas continued their string of success, making four more amid one unfortunate bogey on No. 11. This is the first event for the younger Korda since her win at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where she officially became World No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings.
“Honestly, playing in this team event and playing alongside Jess I think made it a lot easier for it to be my first tournament as a world No. 1, but I just had a lot of fun. I was a little nervous on the first tee shot, but after that we just stuck to our plan and had fun,” said Nelly, who will join her sister representing Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics later this summer.
Two teams sit in a tie for fifth at -4: Wichanee Meechai and Pavarisa Yoktuan (World War 3), and European Solheim Cup Team stalwarts Mel Reid and Carlota Ciganda (Reidy to Fiesta). Meechai and Yoktuan were 5-under through their first nine holes, but struggled on the back-nine with a bogey on No. 14 and eight pars. Ciganda credited her “200%” trust in Reid en route to their 66.
“We have this chemistry that I don’t think many players have, and I think you can see some great names, great players out there, but I don’t know if they know each other that well or they have that chemistry and they can shoot higher scores, because even though you are a great player, if you miss a shot, you are not comfortable,” said Ciganda. “I think having that chemistry, feeling comfortable, even if you miss a shot, if you miss a putt, it’s what you need in this kind of format, especially in foursomes, and I think that’s what we have.”
Three teams round out the top 10 after opening with 67s, including 21-time Tour winner Inbee Park and her major-champion partner, So Yeon Ryu (Team So Inbeelievable). Patty Tavatanakit and Leona Maguire withdrew prior to the first round to make it 71 total teams competing in Midland, Mich.
No Surprise, Kordas Share Early Lead at Dow GLBI
To the shock of exactly no one, Rolex world No. 1 Nelly Korda rolled in a 9-footer for birdie on the final green to give Team Jelly – the sister duo of Nelly and Jessica Korda – a share of the first-round lead at 5-under par in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. It was the sixth birdie of the day for the Kordas to go with one bogey.
And while four teams share the top spot on the leaderboard, the Kordas are the only ones who made it look easy. In fact, they left a few shots out there, including a messy bogey on the par-5 11th and some scrambling pars after a few errant tee shots.
So, how did they do it?
“Jess was rolling them in,” Nelly said.
“Nelly was putting me close,” Jessica quickly interjected.
“It was just good teamwork, honestly,” Nelly added.
They are comfortable, as sisters should be. But they also like the area and the fact that they can play together. Early on Wednesday morning, Jess walked her dog through the neighborhoods of Midland, Mich., where the streets are lined with fresh blooming flowers and there isn’t a weed or untrimmed hedge in sight.
“Really like it here,” Jessica said. “It has a really small town feel and I thoroughly enjoy that. And I love the downtown that you can walk literally everywhere. Everyone is super friendly and the food is delicious. We get treated so well here. I really, really love coming out here and playing.”
Later that afternoon, as the sisters meandered to the first tee for their 1:18 p.m. tee time, incoming LPGA Tour commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan met them with a special presentation, the green caddie bib representing the Rolex World No. 1. In her typical non-plussed fashion, Nelly accepted the honor and went back to her yardage book in preparation for the round.
They birdied the first hole and didn’t look back.
“Honestly, we look at people’s yards to see their landscaping because the homeowners here have really nice landscaping,” Jessica said. “So yeah, it’s just great. We really enjoy it. We’re just trying to enjoy the entire moment.
“We kind of set a game plan last year and we stuck with it,” Jess continued. “Obviously, playing Solheim Cup after this event, the last time we were here, was super helpful, as well.
“We have had a pretty good gameplan. Our caddies actually went to dinner last night with their [yardage] books. They’re super nerdy about it. I think they were honestly more excited about this whole experience.”
Nelly added, “Jess is five years older, so we didn’t really get to play too much golf growing up. The first time we really got to play together was here [in the Dow GLBI] two years ago.
“I feel like we have a very similar mindset, so we both stay really present. We don’t get ahead of ourselves and I think that helps. We have a lot of fun. As Jess said, our caddies are really good friends and we all get along really well.
“Honestly, it’s a lot of fun out there.”