Laetitia Beck takes LPGA Tour Lead in Alabama

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Laetitia Beck (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Laetitia Beck took the first-round lead in the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic, dodging some of the wind Thursday morning in a bogey-free 7-under 65.

The 24-year-old Beck, the first Israeli player to qualify for the LPGA Tour, was in the first group of the day off 10th tee. She birdied four of the final five holes on her opening nine in calmer conditions, and had three more – two on par 5s – on the windier second nine.

“I think the winds picked up for us only like the last five, six holes, so we played the front nine without much wind,” Beck said. “That front nine was 4 under, so it really helped.”

Annie Park and Minjee Lee were tied for second at 67. They played in the afternoon.

Beck hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens and had only 26 putts on the links-style Senator Course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Capitol Hill complex.

“I think here on this golf course it’s all putting, because it’s a very scorable course,” Beck said. “Hitting a lot of greens, hit the right part of the green, and I think I was doing well making putts, even though I did miss birdie opportunities, but I made good putts for birdies.”

Normally held in hotter and firmer conditions late in the summer, the tournament was moved up because of the Olympics.

“The conditions are great,” Beck said. “The greens are softer than what I played last year. They were softer so we can attack more, so I think that’s why it’s a scorable course this year, especially because we can just go for it, especially with having short irons.”

The former Duke player is winless on the tour and has made only two cuts in eight events this season.

Park birdied five of the first seven holes. The 21-year-old former University of Southern California player won three times last year on the Symetra Tour and topped the circuit’s money list.

“It was definitely not easy out there with the wind picking up, but I hit some good shots,” Park said. “There were some lucky shots out there, too, and then I think putting was kind of difficult, especially with the wind and the slopes. There were some really scary putts out there, especially when it’s helping wind downhill, but I had a good round.”

Lee had four straight birdies on her first nine and birdied three of her last five. The 19-year-old Australian won last month in Hawaii for her second LPGA Tour title.

“It was pretty chilly,” Lee said. “I had my jumper on warming up and long pants and long sleeves. … Just the wind makes it cold.”

Mexico’s Alejandra Llaneza opened with a 68.

“I’m pretty happy,” Llaneza said. “I didn’t know what to expect today. I have been actually really sick this week, so I was just like, ‘OK, one shot at a time.’ I think that helped. I got on a roll for a little bit there, so that was exciting.”

Morgan Pressel, Vicky Hurst and Taiwan’s Candie Kung shot 69.

“It was tough out there,” Pressel said. “Once we made the turn, around 10, my hat blew off, I lost my ball marker. The wind played really tough. It was tough to get it close to the hole, really, so when you end up 40 feet on some of these greens, it’s just good to two-putt.”

Michelle Wie had a 71. She’s winless since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open and hasn’t had a top-10 finish in 34 events.

Fourth-ranked Stacy Lewis, the 2012 winner, had a late bogey in a 71. She’s winless in 48 events.

No. 5 Brooke Henderson had a 72. The 18-year-old Canadian has eight top-10 finishes this year.

“It wasn’t one of my best days today, but I hung in there really well and was happy to get two birdies kind of late in my back nine to get it back to even par,” Henderson said. “Definitely some opportunities out there, but the conditions are pretty tough. The wind is pretty strong today.”

Japan’s Haru Nomura also shot 72. She has two victories this season.

Defending champion Kris Tamulis had a 76.