PALM HARBOR — One of the most difficult challenges facing golfers at the LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship is a lack of consistency stemming from an irregular tournament schedule for the 45-and-older tour.
Laurie Rinker hadn't played a competitive event since September. It didn't take the University of Florida product long to shake off any rust, though.
Rinker birdied three of the first five holes on Innisbrook's Island Course on Saturday and closed out her opening round with birdies on 15 and 16 to finish at 4-under 69 and a one-shot lead over Laura Davies heading into today's final round.
"When you play once every three months in a competition, it's different than when we played the (LPGA) Tour," Rinker said. "It's easier when you're playing every week to get into that mental focus that you need. I felt like I got into that (Saturday)."
Rinker was bogey-free throughout the back nine.
"(A birdie on 10) kind of helped me out," she said. "I had more chances on the back. I could have been a lot more under (par), but I'm very pleased."
Rinker is going for her second tour win in a row. She was victorious at the BJ's Charity Pro-Am in September.
Laura Davies, making her tour debut, shot 3-under 70. She was 1 under for much of her round before making consecutive birdies on 16 and 17. She had a chance to tie Rinker for the lead but was well short on a 10-foot downhill birdie attempt on 18.
"Early on, we knew Laurie had put up a good score," Davies said. "You knew you didn't want to go much worse than 1 under to have a shot (today). Those birdies on 16 and 17 really helped me out. It went well."
Jane Crafter, Beth Daniel and Tampa's Nancy Scranton were the only other golfers to break par and were tied for third at 1-under 72.
Daniel rebounded from a double bogey on No. 9 to remain in contention. She was 2 under until a bogey on 17 dropped her three shots behind Rinker.
"It was a disappointing round of golf," Daniel said. "I made a lot of birdies, had a lot of opportunities, and I just kind of in the middle of the round made some mistakes. That's just from not playing.
"You just make stupid mistakes that when you're playing a lot of golf, you don't make those mistakes."
Defending champion Michele Redman had a steady round with two birdies and two bogeys to finish at par 73.
"I had some really good opportunities on the front nine," she said. "I'm really looking forward to getting back out there."
. fast facts
LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship
What: 36-hole stroke play major championship of the LPGA's 45-and-older tour
When/where: Today, Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, Island Course, Palm Harbor
Schedule: Today — Gates open 7:30 a.m.; tee times 8
Tickets: legendstour.com/tickets; $10; free for ages 17 and under, retired and active military with ID