Amateurs have very different days at Four Winds Invitational on Friday

SOUTH BEND — A pair of amateurs, who received sponsor exemptions for the Four Winds Invitational at Blackthorn Golf Club had every different experience during the opening round on Friday.

Of Lake Worth Florida, Alexa Pano started out strong and played much of the first round under par before struggling down the stretch.

Pano was 3-under par through 11 holes before playing the final seven holes 4-over par to finish with a 73. She trails tournament leader Kim Kaufman, of Clark, South Dakota, by six shots.

Paige Warren, of Baltimore, Maryland, withdrew from the tournament late in the round on Friday. Warren is a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, one of two in the field this weekend. She was looking forward to playing well.

“This year has been different; I have had a lot more time to practice with school being online. It’s all about time management and organization, but it’s doable,” Warren said. “You learn from everything they do, from the way every player warms up to managing the course, but I think the biggest thing is seeing the grind week to week and how much hard work they put into it. You can also see the ups and downs, as well as, the perseverance that it takes for them to really succeed on tour.”

Warren, a senior at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, recently committed to play collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Even though she did not turn in the performance she wanted to. Warren was still excited to get a chance to compete and represent the Potawatomi.

“I am just really proud to represent my tribe,” she said, “It’s an honor just to be here and be able to compete with such great players. One of the biggest things I have learned from spending time with the tribe is the value in just being a good person. Always remembering your family, respecting your elders and learning as much as you can from them. Just trying to be the best person you can be goes a long way no matter what you do.”

Gabby Lemieux, of Caldwell, Idaho, is the other Native American in the Four Winds field. She is a member of the Shoshone Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. Like Warren, she would like to play well and be a role model for young golfers.

“Currently being the only Native American women’s professional golfer, I have always had hopes of the younger generation following in the footsteps of myself or Notah Begay,” Lemieux said. “To have another fellow golfer, who is a tribal member, in the field is amazing. I wish the best for her this week and moving forward in her golf career.”

Kaufman is playing on tour four the seventh consecutive week. She was fourth at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship earlier this year. She has also played five times on the LPGA Tour, making three of those cuts.

Kaufman had six birdies to propel her to the top of the leaderboard at Blackthorn.

“There are two ways to think about: Some girls say you always have to take your weeks off. I feel like you have to earn your weeks off,” Kaufman said. “As an LPGA player, I never felt like I could take a week off when you are trying to play Asia or keep your card. We had a plan to only play Battle Creek, Toledo, and Mesa. But after Battle Creek and it was so fun, so we decided let’s just keep going.”

Kaufman is no stranger to getting off to a good start. She has finished three out of the four first rounds on the Symetra Tour under par. Now she just needs to keep the momentum rolling throughout the weekend.

“I really like Fridays this year, which is great. I’m happy to be here because I have to work on having those good last two days,” said Kaufman. “I’ve talked with my mental coach and told her I’m feeling it, I’m tired, I know how it’s going to play today. She said, ‘You can think of the whole thing because it’s easy to go oh my gosh I’m tired but break it down.’ I could easily just attack the course and then go home next week, but I’m staying in it. I just have to continue to just work all the things both mentally and physically and hope that eventually, I have the two weekend days I want.”


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