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Grier all smiles as she resumes career

August 24, 2012|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.com
  • Spectators watch Hagerstown's Ashley Grier hit an approach shot toward the eighth green during the opening round of the Symetra Tours Challenge at Musket Ridge on Friday. Grier shot an even-par 72.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

MYERSVILLE, Md. — In her return to official women’s tour competition for the first time since 2010, Hagerstown’s Ashley Grier ended the first round of the Symetra Tour’s Challenge at Musket Ridge with a wide smile Friday.

It mattered some that her even-par 72 left her six shots behind leader Valentine Derrey, of Paris, France. But there were other thoughts in Grier’s mind following a three-birdie, three-bogey performance on the 6,500-yard layout.

“I’m on the first tee and can’t believe how many people are here,” said Grier, who birdied the opening hole. “When I made the turn, there were more people. It was just awesome. I just want to thank everyone that came out.”

Grier will begin her second round Saturday at 1:45 p.m., along with Brittany Benvenuto of Langhorne, Pa., and Rachel Connor of Manchester, England.

Grier watched playing partners Alex Marina and Mitsuki Katahira each go low with two of Friday’s 62 par-or-better rounds in a field of 110 players. Marina and Katahira each ended with 68s.

Grier received a special exemption to play this weekend, her first since 2010 when she was on the former Futures Tour.

She made the exceptional beginning to her round look easy with a 15-foot putt for birdie.

“I hit the ball good and it was an all-around nice start,” said Grier. “It was so cool putting in that putt.”

Bogeys followed on the second and fourth holes, but Grier got back even on the fifth with a beautifully executed 25-foot putt with about six inches of break for a birdie.

“I just picked a line out and had a feel for it,” said Grier.

A three-putt bogey on the seventh pushed her back to 1 over. Following a missed birdie effort from 15 feet on the par-3 eighth, Grier made a beautiful par-saving five on the ninth with a chip from the rough, leaving a big smile on her face.

She agreed that her round might have totally disappeared with anything worse than a par, considering where she was hitting from.

“I didn’t think I could get it close,” she said. “It kept me in the round.”

Grier missed another reasonable putt for birdie on the 10th before a 12-footer dropped in on the 11th to get back to even.

Grier later made a pair of downhill chip-ins for par on the 14th and 16th that excited the crowd — at the 16th, she literally had no room on the backswing.

“I hit probably my best iron of the day but it went off the green to the right and against the lip of rough,” said Grier. “It was really a lucky shot.”

After missing a birdie putt on 17, Grier nearly chipped in on the 18th, just clipping the cup from 20 feet off the green before making par.

“It was a great group to play in and they played well,” said Grier. “You always want to score lower but I’m very happy. (Saturday) I’ll be a little more aggressive.”

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