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Career-low score gives Changkija first-round lead
June 22, 2012

Sandra Changkija -8, Rolex Rankings No. 527
Anna Nordqvist -7, Rolex Rankings No. 31
Shanshan Feng, -5, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Karin Sjodin -4, Rolex Rankings No. 87
Suzann Pettersen -4, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Angela Stanford -4, Rolex Rankings No. 16

LPGA Tour rookie Sandra Changkija carded a career-low 8-under-par 63 on Thursday to take the first-round lead of the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. Changkija (@SandraChangkija) shot 6-under-par 30 on her inward nine – the front-nine at Grey Silo – to match the low score of the season on the LPGA Tour and take a three-shot lead over newly minted major champion Shanshan Feng (5-under-par 66) and Anna Nordqvist (-5 through 13). Changkija’s 63 also marks the lowest first-round score on Tour in 2012.

“My ball striking's been good, you know, for most every tournament I've played in,” said Changkija. “I just missed a few fairways here and there. I've been keeping up with my ball striking and just needed to make some good strokes.”

A graduate of the Symetra Tour – Road to the LPGA, Changkija played 11 events on the developmental circuit in 2011 with a season-best tie for fifth. The 23-year-old was standout at Nova Southeastern University, where she claimed 16 tournament victories and was a four-time NCAA Division II Player of the Year (2008-2011). Additionally, she is a four-time NGCA Division II All-American First Team selection (2008-2011) and a three-time member of the winning NCAA Division II Women's Golf Championship team (2009 - 2011).

Changkija heads into Friday’s second round with a one-stroke lead over two-time LPGA Tour winner Anna Nordqvist. A suspended first-round due to inclement weather forced Nordqvist to finish her opening round Friday morning. Nordqvist’s first round consisted of nine birdies and two bogeys en route to a 7-under-par 64.

In search of her first LPGA Tour victory since the 2009 LPGA Tour Championship Presented by Rolex, Nordvist took full advantage of the less windy conditions Friday morning.

“Well, yesterday was really, really windy, so I just tried to keep the ball in play, and I'm hitting my irons really well,” said Nordqvist. “I had a lot of birdie putts inside, say, 10, 15 feet and I was rolling them pretty well, so it's just been solid.”

An impressive group of players currently sits at 5-under par including the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour, Lexi Thompson, 2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, Hee Kyung Seo, recent Wegmans LPGA Championship winner, Shanshan Feng, and Auburn University standout, Karlin Beck.

The 23-year-old entered the week at No. 527 on the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings. She has made two of seven cuts as a rookie in 2012 with a career-best tie for 55th at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Changkija has $6,708 in earnings.

Becoming an LPGA Rolex First Time Winner is exhilarating but it can also come with some added pressure. Shanshan Feng recently became a Rolex First Time Winner at the Wegmans LPGA Championship where she became the first player from the mainland China to win on the LPGA Tour.

This week serves as Feng's first tournament since her recent victory and she admitted to feeling some pressure prior to today's first round.

"You know, I thought a lot before I started because I know that after you win a tournament, maybe sometimes you'll be too like expecting yourself to do too well and then that would give yourself actually pressure," said Feng. "But that was what I was trying to tell myself, I said just keep patient and just focus on shot by shot and try your best."

Feng held up under the self-applied pressure as she shot a first-round 5-under par 68 and finds herself three-strokes behind the lead heading into tomorrow.

Coming off a 2011 season that included two LPGA Tour victories and an impressive showing at the Solheim Cup, it is surprising to think that Pettersen has yet to secure a win this season. Nipping on the heels of her first victory this year, Pettersen played solid golf during the first round of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic to shoot a 4-under par 67.

This year Pettersen has recorded six top-20 finishes including a season-best tied for second finish at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Despite the windy conditions and increased amount of golf, Pettersen's confidence and feel for this week's greens could catapult her into the winner's circle in Waterloo, Canada.

"I actually got off to a pretty good start," said Pettersen. "I just feel like I've played a lot of golf lately, I'm feeling I'm playing very good, I have a good feel for the greens. It got really windy after a couple holes. It's tough, but it's not that tough, but it's tough enough when the wind gets up, that's the only thing that's going to protect this course. But I'm right there, it's good."

Karin Sjodin finds herself in contention at yet another LPGA tournament this year but this Swede has her sights set on entry into the U.S. Women's Open. A win this week would do just that for Sjodin and she has put herself in prime condition to do just that after an opening round 4-under par 67 has her a mere four-strokes behind current leader Sandra Changkija.

"Tom (Sjodin's caddie) thinks that a win might get me into the U.S. Open," said Sjodin. "I haven't checked to see if that's the case, but getting into the U.S. Open would be fun."

In the midst of a breakthrough season, Sjodin has four top-20 victories this season and knocked on the door of her first LPGA Tour victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Her impressive play as of late has given everyone the opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse of her outgoing personality and quick wit.

During today's first round of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, Sjodin was Mic'd Up during Golf Channel's two hour telecast.

"It was fun," said Sjodin. "I messed up a couple of times, but I think -- I think I talk a lot when I play, so I don't think I did anything different today than I normally do. I kind of talk a little to everyone that wants to listen. Fortunately enough, my big mistake was when the little guy that has to be within like 20 yards of me, he wasn't there, so it wasn't bad."

Angela Stanford might be from Texas but this Texan feels right at home in Canada. Since 2006, Stanford has finished in the top-17 five times in the CN Canadian Women's Open including runner-up in 2006 and tied for second in 2009.

"I like it," said Stanford. "It's always been good to me. I've always played well up here and the people are so friendly, so I like Canada."

Stanford utilized last week to focus her attention on improving her ball striking and putting. The hard work has paid off for Stanford as she finds herself amidst a pack of players at 4-under par.

"I got off to a steady start and just really got comfortable out there," said Stanford. "I did some work last week hitting balls and working on my putting. I kind of like the golf course. The front side, made a couple putts, and just it was a good day. I hit the ball really well and made some putts."

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