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(Article courtesy or symetratour.com)

Laura Gonzalez Escallon fired an opening round 65 to take a one shot lead over Dottie Ardina, Wichanee Meechai and Min-G Kim, at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge.

“I was hitting my irons pretty close so I was having a lot of birdie opportunities and I converted a couple so that felt good,” Gonzalez Escallon said. “I didn’t make a lot of mistakes so it was fun out there.”

Gonzalez Escallon hasn’t made many mistakes as of late as she is coming of a pair of victories in the last month and a half – the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship in July and the last event played on the Symetra Tour, the PHC Classic, two weeks ago.

“Once you get that first win it shows that all of your hard work is paying off so you just want to keep working hard and see if you can win more,” Gonzalez Escallon explained.

The Belgian was also perfect on the day with six birdies and no bogeys.

“You really have to be precise with the irons,” Gonzalez Escallon said about her approach to attacking Willow Run. “You have to really think about your second and third shots and where you have to be in relation to the pin so that’s what I really liked about it.”

One of the keys to Gonzalez Escallon’s success of late has been the support and mentorship of her coach Christian Ditlefsen who teaches back in Belgium.

“I always send him videos and then I call him a couple of times a week,” Gonzalez Escallon explained. “It depends on how I feel and then I just ask him a couple of questions. He knows my swing very well. We’ve been working together for 13 years so he knows it by heart and he knows exactly what I have to do. So I just work on the range, send him video and he tells me if it’s correct.”

The duo will be reunited in two weeks when Gonzalez Escallon will have Ditlefsen on the bag at The Evian Championship, the final major of the LPGA season.

“I’m really excited,” Gonzalez Escallon said with smile. “He hasn’t seen me play competitive golf in at least four years since we don’t have time to travel around. He’s never caddied for me before so I’m really really excited to have him on the bag.”

Second round play begins tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. off of the first and 10th tees. There will be a cut to the top 60 and ties following play on Friday. The third and final rounds will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday andSunday off split tees in threesomes. The final round is expected to conclude at approximately 2:30 p.m.with a trophy ceremony on the 18th green.

Parkston, S.D., native and local qualifier Sydney Bormann started her Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge with a 77 but the experience was more than she could have hoped for.

“It was an amazing experience,” Bormann said. “I was super excited the whole time. I was just trying to take it all in but overall it was just a great experience and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Bormann was followed by a raucous crowd which consisted of family, friends and South Dakota State teammates and coaches.

“I was a little nervous on the first tee and on those first few holes,” Bormann admitted. “But overall, I just felt a lot of support throughout the whole round whether it was clapping or cheering or words of encouragement the whole round.”

VOVIK RACE FOR THE CARD NO. 1 MADELENE SAGSTROM IN THE MIX: Volvik Race for the Card No. 1 Madelene Sagstrom is right in the hunt sitting two shots back after an opening round 67 at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge.

“I definitely left some shots out there but I got it back,” Sagstrom said. “I made a bunch of birdies so that was nice. I think that I need to just try and keep hitting it closer to the hole and giving myself some more chances because I putted pretty good but they didn’t go in.”

One putt that did drop was a 15-foot right to left breaker for birdie on the 18th.

“That broke,” Sagstrom said with a smile. “There’s some big breakers out here but I read it right and it went in.”

While she has a pair of wins and has set the Symetra Tour record for money earned in a season already on the season, Sagstrom admitted to lacking a little confidence due to being off from mid-July until last week’s CP Women’s Open on the LPGA Tour.

“I’m getting more and more because I haven’t played in a while,” Sagstrom explained. “Last week was kind of like starting again so it’s getting better and getting back. I feel like the game is getting there so I’m trying to actually convince myself that I can be up there fighting for it again.”

NEW CLUBS HELP MADISON PRESSEL: Madison Pressel shot an opening round 67 to sit two strokes back of the lead at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge.

“I hit a lot of greens today,” Pressel said of the key to her game. “I think giving yourself the most opportunities for birdies they’re eventually going to fall so I was able to make a few putts but just giving myself consistent opportunities was the key.”

Another key was an equipment upgrade during the off week.

“I actually got practically all new clubs,” Pressel explained. “Driver was changed and then everything was just updated of the same equipment. So I got all of that fixed with new grooves and everything.”

Pressel upgraded to Callaway Mackdaddy wedges, Apex forged irons, Apex driving irons and the XR16 driver.

“The driver was giving me some trouble in Milwaukee so it’s nice to get that under control,” Pressel admitted. “I’m hitting it really well. I’ve been hitting it really well and now the clubs are just nice and shiny and look good but honestly the driver was the biggest change for me. Getting the updated driver and feeling confident over it has really been key this week.”