MANATEE -- Christine Song and Isabelle Boineau took different approaches to their first tournament rounds Friday at the $100,000 Guardian Retirement Championship at Sara Bay Country Club.
But both players, making their debut at the second-year LPGA Symetra Tour event, left Friday's play carding 4-under-par 68s. They lead their nearest competitors, Australia's Courtney Massey and Boca Raton's Jaye Marie Green, by two strokes.
It's the first time in the brief tournament's history that a sub-70 round was posted.
Last year's inaugural venture into Manatee County witnessed slick greens paired with rain and heavy winds causing the highest winning score (1-over 217) on last year's Symetra Tour schedule.
Consequently, nobody mustered a score in the 60s for three competitive rounds in 2012.
But on Friday, Song and Boineau navigated the Donald Ross-designed track effectively.
Song's six-birdie round was buoyed by her sublime putting. She needed just 22 putts and relied on a stout short game to offset an approach game that saw her hit just nine greens in regulation.
"I was making everything inside 6 feet," said Song, who is from California and recently moved to Tennessee. "... I felt like I had really good feel (Friday). I
hope I have it (Saturday). Where I live, it snows and it rains so I haven't been practicing much. I've just been putting and chipping a lot."
Boineau played a more straightforward game. However, the secret for her was playing the course roughly a month ago when the French national team was in town training at IMG Academy.
"We had a practice round out here, and the greens were much faster and it was so windy," Boineau said. "But (Friday), we were so lucky because it's so beautiful out here. There was almost no wind, so perfect conditions to score on this golf course."
Meanwhile, Jaclyn Sweeney represented the local contingent in the field with a 71. Her round, though, looked like it would finish better as she played Sara Bay's front nine. It was her last nine of the day after starting on the back side when disaster struck. Sweeney was charged one penalty shot after she was deemed to have committed a rules infraction regarding pace of play.
"It was on my tee shot and on my second putt for par," Sweeney said. "I appealed the process. I do not agree with the decision. I feel as though I am not a slow player, but I respect their decision and I still want to play the weekend, so I signed my scorecard and I technically shot 71 (Friday). ... I was 2-under with a one-shot penalty."
The penalty took Sweeney from a share of third place to a tie for fifth with seven other players.
Nonetheless, Sweeney said she was happy with her round considering she had two early bogeys and had to fight to earn her way into red numbers.
"I kind of was starting to overthink things a little bit in the beginning of the round," Sweeney said. "And 10 and 13 (where I had the bogeys) are my favorite holes, but I didn't hit a very good drive and made a 5-footer for bogey on the first hole. So I played solid, I had a lot of opportunities, which was nice and I kind of pulled it out."
The tournament resumes at 7:45 a.m. Saturday. The top 70 and ties advance to play Sunday's final round.