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Sherbrooke’s Maude-Aimée Leblanc watches her tee shot on the 18th hole at the Manulife LPGA Classic in Cambridge, Ont., on Thursday. Leblanc finished at three-under 69 on the day. (Dave Chidley/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Sherbrooke’s Maude-Aimée Leblanc watches her tee shot on the 18th hole at the Manulife LPGA Classic in Cambridge, Ont., on Thursday. Leblanc finished at three-under 69 on the day. (Dave Chidley/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Choi withstands wind to grab early lead at LPGA Manulife Classic Add to ...

South Korea’s Chella Choi was the only one ready for the wind.

Choi shot a six-under 66 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the LPGA Manulife Classic. Gusts of wind made long drives difficult for most of the field, but Choi had been focused on improving her drives in the days leading up to the event, coincidentally giving her a powerful stroke off the tee that could force the ball to the green.

“I worked really hard the last three weeks,” Choi said after completing her round at Whistle Bear Golf Club. “I want to hit straight and strong on my drive all four days, so I focused on just my driving for four days strong.

“So that’s why my driving is better, so the game is easier than before.”

It looked as if Choi would finish the day in sole possession of second as Spain’s Belen Mozo was seven under heading to the 18th tee.

But Mozo triple bogeyed on No. 18, dropping into a tie for sixth.

Mozo’s tee shot was especially victimized by the wind, going wide right, over the spectator’s pathway and into thick rough. She had to hack her way out of the long grass before going into two bunkers and finally on to the green.

The Spaniard was in the second-last grouping of the day and apologized to reporters as she rushed to the driving range before it closed for the day.

American Brittany Lang, Spain’s Azahara Munoz and Sweden’s Dani Holmqvist were the clubhouse leaders after the morning session, with all three firing a five-under 67 before the wind picked up.

“I’m very happy,” said Lang, who won the tournament in 2012 and was in contention last year. “I had a lot of just great putting, a lot of aggressive swings, and I’m going to just run those through my mind, the positives, and I’m ecstatic for the next few days.”

Even then, Lang admitted that the wind made the course especially tricky.

Choi had seven birdies, including four in her final nine holes, to surge up the leaderboard and overtake Lang, Munoz and Holmqvist.

“Pretty good. Pretty good,” Choi said. “A lot of wind today. But my game is good and driving is good, my shots were good, so I made a lot of birdies.”

South Korea’s Chun In-gee joined the group tied for second after firing five under in the afternoon session.

Hamilton’s Alena Sharp and Maude-Aimée Leblanc of Sherbrooke were the low Canadians at three-under 69 on the day. World No. 3 Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., and Charlottetown’s Lorie Kane were two under.

“The wind really picked up on the back nine. It was kind of difficult,” the 18-year-old Henderson said. “And you could see all three of us not really playing exactly the way we wanted just because of the wind and the conditions, but I finished twounder on an afternoon tee time in windy conditions, so I’m happy.

“I’m just excited to tee it up tomorrow where conditions will be a little bit softer and not as much wind.”

Calgary’s Jennifer Ha was one under, amateur Josée Doyon of St. Georges-de-Beauce, Que., and Anne Catherine Tanguay tied for 70th at even par. Amateur Maddie Szeryk of London, Ont., was one over, Vivian Tsui of Markham, Ont., was at two over and Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C., and Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., shot three over.

Nicole Vandermade of Brantford, Ont., finished the round four over and amateur Selena Costabile of Thornhill, Ont., was nine over.

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