Symetra Tour notebook | Nerves plague Lakewood Ranch's Ericka Schneider in pro debut

jdill@bradenton.comApril 26, 2014 

MANATEE -- Ericka Schneider was nervous during first professional round Friday.

"My mind was clear, but I had nervous energy within my body," Schneider said. "I could feel it, but I just didn't really know how to get rid of it. I tried steering the golf ball."

The Lakewood Ranch High alum posted a 9-over-par 81 and has work to do to make the cut in this week's Guardian Retirement Championship at Sara Bay Country Club.

The top 70 and ties advance from Saturday's play to compete in Sunday's final round.

However, Schneider said she relaxed on the back nine. On her opening nine holes, she had a double-bogey to go with three bogeys.

The inauspicious start, though, was a part of her transition into the professional game. And it's one that met her expectations of what pro golf will be like when she wraps up her academics at Ole Miss in a few weeks.

"It was nice having a lot of people here to support me," Schneider said. "And the golf course was great, the weather was great."

Other locals

Most players with ties to Manatee County struggled in the first round. Anya Alvarez, whose swing instructor is Jon Bullas based out in Lakewood Ranch, performed the best among local players. She is tied for fourth after a 1-under-par 71.

Bradenton's Ginger Howard sits in a tie for 37th after a 75. Former IMG Academy students Natalie Sheary and Susy Benavides carded 76s. Manatee County residents Rachel Connor and Hannah Yun posted 80s.

Scores on the rise

Friday's first round witnessed a higher scoring average than last year's opening round (76.50 strokes per round), with the 143-player field needing an average of 77.03 shots to get around Sara Bay.

The difficult Donald Ross layout yielded just seven under-par rounds, and the par-3 13th played the toughest with an average of 3.57 shots per player.

"This is definitely ... one of the highest-scoring courses," said Rachel Rohanna, who is tied for second place after a first-round 70.

The Woods effect

Cheyenne Woods drew a large gallery as she teed off Sara Bay's back nine on Friday afternoon.

It was akin to what her uncle, Tiger Woods, receives when he tees it up in a tournament but on a smaller scale.

Cheyenne Woods, an accomplished player in her own right, captured a Ladies European Tour title back in February.

However, Sara Bay wasn't kind to Woods. She carded a 79, which featured a double-bogey and zero birdies. Woods, though, will get a chance to bounce back Saturday in the morning wave and will need to go low to get herself in the top 70, which is where the field will be cut heading into Sunday's final round.

International flavor

There are 26 different countries represented, including the United States, this week. The top three foreign countries with players at Sara Bay are Canada (12 players), Australia (six) and South Korea (four). Every continent, except for Antarctica, is on hand here with North America boasting the largest contingent.

The top Canadian performer was Jessica Shepley, who posted a 1-under 71 to tie for fourth place. The best Australian score was Emma De Groot's 72, and Min Seo Kwak also carded a 72 to lead the South Korean group.

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