Isi Gabsa (Tuebingen, Germany) posted a 5-under 67 to grab the 18-hole lead at the Symetra Classic on Friday at Raintree Country Club. The 20-year-old birdied five of her final 11 holes to head into the weekend in front. There are five players one shot back at 4-under 68 including last year’s runner-up Augusta James (Bath, Ontario).

“I was hitting my irons well and I generally putt well,” said Gabsa, who is in her first year on the Symetra Tour. “The greens are pretty similar to last week so it was easy for me to adapt, so it was a pretty good day.”

Gabsa, who played last week in Morocco on the Ladies European Tour, hit 15-of-18 greens in regulation and didn’t have a birdie putt longer than 12 feet.

“It’s very exciting to lead the tournament,” said Gabsa. “There is a lot of golf ahead so let us see what happens tomorrow and Sunday.”

Gabsa, who turned professional three years ago after graduating high school in Germany, flew into Charlotte from Morocco on Tuesday and has had a hectic travel schedule all season.

“It has been quite tough with the jet lag,” said Gabsa, who is dealing with six hours worth of jet lag. “I was really happy to play in the morning because it is easier to get up in the morning and usually you get tired in the afternoon.”

Gabsa has played in three Symetra Tour events this year and has made two cuts. Her best finish is a tie for 28th at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic. Gabsa graduated from the LET Access Series in 2015 and is also playing on the LET this year.

“Right now, playing both tours is working out well because there are just a few events on LET so I can just fly back-and-forth,” explained Gabsa. “I’ll have to see how it goes the rest of the year when there are more tournaments.”

Gabsa said she has dreamed of playing on the LPGA Tour since she was six years old.

“I always wanted to play professional golf,” said Gabsa, who has been coming to Ponte Vedra, Florida since she was 12 to work with Justin Ragognetti. “I always wanted to compete with the best in the world.”

It was Gabsa’s brother, who was pursuing a career in golf before a wrist injury, that connected her with Ragognetti.

“There is a lot of snow in Germany during the winter so it is good to fly to Florida to practice,” said Gabsa. “He is awesome, I really like his American attitude. He is a lot different than all the other German coaches.”



Augusta James narrowly missed winning the 2015 Symetra Classic, losing in a playoff to Haruka-Morita WanyaoLu. She got off to good start this year with a 4-under 68.

“I was happy with my round, but thought I left a few good opportunities out there so I’ll work on that tomorrow,” said James. “I like this course, it really fits my eye well and I have good memories out here.”



Emma de Groot (Coofs Harbour, Australia) was standing over her tee shot on eight debating with her caddie, Ashley Sholer, on what club to hit.

“We were between a 6-iron and 5-iron and the pin was right in the back and I thought maybe we should hit a 6-iron to be safe,” explained de Groot. “Ashley said ‘no way, hit the five’ and boom one hop and in the hole. Once we realized it went in it was a lot of fun and a lot of high fives.”

“To get the hole-in-one with only one hole left and to shoot up the leaderboard was great. It will make lunch taste really good, I’ll tell you that.”

It was her first hole-in-one in a competitive round.



Sara-Maude Juneau, a member at Raintree Country Club, started strong with a 3-under 69.

“I’m very happy with the start,” said Juneau. “I was a little nervous and I’m very lucky to have everyone telling me that they are pulling for me. I played solid and on the front nine gave myself chances.”

Juneau made four consecutive birdies on her outward nine from the 15th through 18th holes.

Her caddie this week is Raintree Country Club member, Nadine Neel, who Juneau plays with every Sunday when she is not on Tour.



Last week, University of North Carolina freshman Kelly Whaley (Farmington, Conn.) was in California playing with her teammates in the NCAA Stanford Regional. Whaley tied for 27th among all individuals after shooting a three-day score of 8-over par (73-75-73) to help the Tar Heels secure a spot in the 2016 NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, which take place next week (May 20-25) at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.

This week, Whaley is preparing for Nationals by participating as an amateur in her first career professional golf tournament at the Symetra Classic.

“It’s great preparation,” Whaley said of competing this week at Raintree Country Club. “We’ve been practicing so hard, the team and I, and we’re so excited. After the first day we really had to fight in regionals, so it’s great that we’re going to Nationals and I leave Tuesday. Just having this tournament to be able to prepare is really nice.”

Whaley has the added benefit of having a former LPGA professional caddying for her this week, who also happens to be her mother. Suzy Whaley, a former Tar Heel herself and current secretary of the PGA of America, became the first woman ever to be elected as an Officer of the Association in 2014. Suzy, whose playing career includes three Connecticut Women’s Open Championships, is also well-known for being the first woman since Babe Zaharius in 1945 to qualify for a PGA Tour event after earning her way into the 2003 Greater Hartford Open.

“It was really special,” Kelly said of sharing her first professional tournament experience with her mom. “She’s been through obviously a lot of them, so it was a lot of help because she knew what to tell me at some parts. She was like, “You’re not out of it,” because I doubled my tenth hole, and it helped. I think it was really special and helpful.”

Kelly competed in every event for UNC in her freshman season and finished third on the team during NCAA Regional play. Her stroke average of 75.47 in ten tournaments played (30 rounds) ranks second overall on the Tar Heel roster.

Starting on the back nine, Whaley got through her first nine holes at the Symetra Classic at even par before a double-bogey on the par-4 first. Her score of 74 (+2) puts her in a tie for 82nd after the first round of play.

“I feel good,” said Whaley. “I think I played solid. I had that one mistake and obviously the last hole I wanted to finish better, but in the end I think I played solid and I can play better tomorrow. There’s lots to improve on, so I’m confident.”



Anne-Catherine Tanguay (Quebec, Canada) might have had the largest gallery following her on Friday at the Symetra Classic, literally. That’s because Carolina Panthers offensive linemen David Foucault (6-8, 320 lbs.) and Daryl

Williams (6-6, 335 lbs.) were in attendance at Raintree Country Club watching Tanguay play.

Tanguay, who sits T85 after shooting a 2-over 74, is close friends with Foucault’s girlfriend, fellow Canadian golfer Caroline Ciot. Tanguay said that she found out that Ciot was in town via Instagram.

“I didn’t know she was in Charlotte actually,” Tanguay explained. “I went on a hike and posted those pictures, and she saw it and was like, ‘You’re in Charlotte?’”

The two friends grew up together in Quebec competing in junior and amateur golf tournaments against each other. Tanguay mentioned that Ciot would hopefully be joining her on Tour soon as she will be attempting to get through LPGA Qualifying Tournament in August.

“She’s going to turn pro, she’s going to Q-school this fall,” said Tanguay. “It’s really cool for her to be able to come out here and just kind of watch.”


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