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Published: Saturday, 8/11/2012

Rookie returns with pleasant memory

BLADE STAFF
First-round leader Pernilla Lindberg, trailing by two at the midway point, recently visited a sports psychologist. First-round leader Pernilla Lindberg, trailing by two at the midway point, recently visited a sports psychologist.
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The last time Kathleen Ekey played in a golf tournament at Highland Meadows she won.

It was during the fall of 2004 and Ekey was a golfer at Walsh Jesuit High School, not far from her northeast Ohio hometown of Wadsworth.

"That's getting to be a long time ago," said Ekey, now an LPGA Tour rookie after a couple seasons on the Symetra Tour, a developmental circuit, where she was the 2011 Player of the Year. "But maybe there's some good mojo here."

Related article: New field, same story

Photo gallery: Jamie Farr Toledo Classic: Aug. 10

Ekey has opened the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic with rounds of 69-68 for a 5-under total. They represent her first sub-70 rounds in 22 starts this year. She has one tie for 60th and eight missed cuts in nine previous LPGA events.

So, good mojo, indeed.

Ekey, a graduate of the University of Alabama, said she was 3-under through eight holes at her first tournament this year in Australia before struggling to find the clubhouse.

"It really bothered me that I stumbled at the end," Ekey said. "I started over-thinking everything. I got frustrated and started trying too hard. Different parts of my game never gelled."

So she was looking forward to returning to the Ohio site where she won that high school tournament for a little home cooking.

Then, Ekey awakened Thursday morning with a sore back, a malady she'd never dealt with.

"I thought, 'Oh, dear.' So I was really proud to get through the first round at 2-under. [On Friday] I was at the fitness trailer at 6 a.m."

In a strange way, maybe it has helped produce her best rounds of the year.

"I'm staying within myself, not over-swinging," the 25-year-old Ekey said. "I can't swing as hard as usual because it's not a good idea to be hitting [the club into] the ground. So I guess what I've done so far is a testament to my short game and putting. I sort of got it rolling and made enough putts to score pretty well. I've put it together on the greens at a good time."

MIND GAMES: First-round leader Pernilla Lindberg, now trailing by two strokes at the midway point after an even-par round Friday, is hoping to transfer the success she has had on the European Ladies Tour to the LPGA. To help, she recently visited with a sports psychologist or, as she put it, a "mental coach."

They met for the first time two weeks ago at the Evian Masters in France and have spent several hours together.

"I think my self-confidence has not been as high when I've been in the states playing on the LPGA Tour as on the European Tour," the Swede said. "There's no reason it shouldn't be as high.

"I know it is much more competitive out here. This is where the best players in the world are playing. [But] there's no reason I shouldn't look at myself as one of the top players here, too.

"So that's really the approach walking into every tournament … stop thinking about having to make the cut and thinking more about how I can win this tournament. [It's] just trying to raise my expectations a little bit and focus on the right thing."

MISSING THE CUT: Michelle Wie did not make the cut at the Farr Classic, finishing with a two-day score of 144 -- shooting a 75 on Thursday and 69 on Friday. Still, at the end of her round, a throng of fans greeted Wie at the players exit, and she signed autographs for many of the younger spectators.

"It's tough, and it's not a course that's suited for my game," said Wie, who at one time was the youngest player ever to qualify for an LPGA event, and who turned pro at 16 years old in 2005.

Wie, 22, found one bright spot on the course -- the hole that hosts the fabled "Friday at the Farr," as the atmosphere surrounding the green is better suited for tailgating at a football game than it would be for a golf tournament.

"I really liked the 14th hole, the par-3," Wie said. "Being there, seeing the fans, there was really good energy."

Even Lindberg, who finished with a 71 on Friday, was entertained by the crowd at the 14th hole.

"I think they had a few drinks by the time they were there," Lindberg said, laughing. "I don't know if they're going to be able to leave the grandstands."

PERFECTION: Jennifer Rosales had a decidedly imperfect stay at the Farr Classic this week.

Except for one hole.

On the 179-yard 14th, the 13th-year pro from the Philippines was perfect. She used her 4-iron to hit a hole-in-one and win a Kia Optima.

The new ride will help make up for the earnings she lost by missing the cut. Rosales finished outside the top 100 with a 5-over 147 for the tourney.



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