SYLVANIA, Ohio, AP
Annika Sorenstam tried to concentrate on golf, but couldn’t quite do it. Just a few hours after learning of the death of club manufacturer Ely Callaway — one of her mentors, friends and chief sponsors — Sorenstam shot a 1-over-par 72 Thursday in the first round of the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic. “I thought about it all day,” Sorenstam said of the death of Callaway, whose company revolutionized the design of the driver. “But I know Mr. Callaway would want me to play. That’s why I’m here, to try and do the best I can.” Karrie Webb — Sorenstam’s frequent rival for the title of top female golfer in the world — is still coping with a similar loss. Webb shot a 1-under 70 in her first tournament since winning the LPGA Championship two weeks ago. After completing her career Grand Slam, Webb rushed home to Australia, but arrived shortly after the death of her grandfather. “It was a little up and down,” a stoic Webb said of her emotional state. “To get in at 1 under is great.” Webb said she was still struggling to overcome jet lag and said she needed a good night’s sleep to finally focus on golf. Yet she still found herself just 3 shots behind co-leaders Fiona Pike and Alicia Dibos on a day when the field was bedeviled by the swirling, shifting winds at Highland Meadows Golf Club. A non-winner in her ninth year on the LPGA Tour, Dibos started on the back nine and was 4 under through the first eight holes. She stayed that way by saving par with a 25-foot putt for a sand save on her last hole. “I never thought 4 under would be leading the tournament, to tell you the truth,” the native of Peru said. “The course is in great condition. The reason 4 under is leading is the wind. It was very tough this afternoon.” Pike has placed in the top 10 in only one of her 62 LPGA events, but did not meet much trouble in a bogey-free 67. “You won’t play the wind well if you’re not executing the swing properly,” she said. “The little mishits seem to be huge.” A shot back at 68 was 1994 Farr winner Kelly Robbins, along with Smriti Mehra, Cindy Schreyer, Moira Dunn and Heather Bowie. A Michigan native, Robbins was followed by her parents, grandparents and a collection of other relatives as she hit a 9-iron to 10 feet (3 meters) on her final hole and then rolled in the birdie putt. “It’s great being so close to home,” she said. Aree Wongluekiet, the 15-year-old amateur, who along with twin sister Naree received sponsor exemptions into the tournament, shot a bogey-free 69 to join 10 others who were 2 shots off the lead. Naree had a 77. “My day went pretty well,” Aree said. “I’m quite happy with the way I played. My score could have gone lower, but I got some breaks out there so I can’t complain.” The last amateur to win an LPGA event was JoAnne Carner in the 1969 Burdine’s Invitational.