Blumenherst leads in Australia after 66

Amanda Blumenherst won the LPGA Qualifying School last September.

Amanda Blumenherst won the LPGA Qualifying School last September.

GOLD COAST, Australia – Former Duke star Amanda Blumenherst shot a 6-under 66 Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over defending champion Katherine Hull after the first round of the ANZ Australian Ladies Masters.

Blumenherst birdied three of her final four holes on a Royal Pines resort course soggy from recent heavy rain.

With a lift, clean and place rule in effect, Blumenherst and Hull (67) were a number of morning players to master swirling winds.

Becky Brewerton, six-time former champion Karrie Webb and Anna Nordqvist, last year's LPGA Championship winner, were in a group tied for third with 68s.

Three-time former champion Laura Davies shot 70, Christina Kim and Yani Tseng 71 and Brittany Lincicome 72.

Blumenherst, a three-time U.S. collegiate player of the year at Duke University and 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur winner, turned pro last June and won the LPGA qualifying tournament in December. She's never led a pro tournament, but hopes to draw on the experience of her outstanding amateur career to help her with any nerves.

“It wasn't an accident that I played well in so many amateur and college events,” Blumenherst said. “It really prepared me for this step. But it still can be intimidating, I get a few butterflies still on the first tee.”

On Friday, she'll have an afternoon start off the 10th tee.

“It's going to be different,” Blumenherst said. “I won't be looking at the leaderboards, I won't be thinking I have to keep birdieing holes. I'll just play my game.”

Blumenherst played in Thailand and Singapore before this week's tournament, and is entered in next week's Australian Women's Open at Melbourne, giving her four weeks in a row in tournaments.

“I had a lot of time off during the offseason, which was great, and visited my family in Indiana,” she said. “So I had a lot of time now to hit the ground running.

“Q school was the only thing I really had since October until the middle of February, so it was great having four tournaments in a row.”

With her uncle, Bill Blumenherst, as caddie, she putted well on Royal Pines’ tricky greens — there is much less break in them than many players think.

“I'm always a fairly solid ball striker, but (putting) that's kind of been struggling,” she said. He is a great green reader as well ... so I was able to turn that on.”

Hull, who had a bogey-free round Thursday, high-fived Blumenherst outside the media interview room.

“I played in California with her in October, and I'm really impressed with her game,” said the Australian. “She's a sweetheart as well. It's nice to see someone out there with personality and talent.”

And an education. Blumenherst graduated last May from Duke as a history major/English minor. She calls it her “safety net.”

“Leaving school early was never an option, and it's nice to know you have something to fall back on,” Blumenherst said. “And the experience of being in college, I wouldn't have traded that for the world.

“Amateur golf has prepared me so well for this next step. I do feel everytime I tee it up that there is a chance I can win.”

If those wins don't come, she just might return to school.

“I'm kind of a dork, I absolutely love school,” she says. “I'd actually probably be a schoolteacher. My parents say I can't live on a schoolteachers’ budget, which is probably right, so I'm playing golf.”

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