GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. » The ShopRite LPGA Classic is back, and so seemingly is 47-year-old Sherri Steinhauer.
After missing all of last year following surgery on both hips and grueling rehabilitation, Steinhauer stole the show in the opening round of the reborn ShopRite event with a near-flawless 7-under 64 yesterday on the Bay Course at Seaview.
"It’s not easy to get up and get into the gym and to do these tedious little exercises and spend the hours in there," Steinhauer said. "But when I got frustrated or down, I just said, ‘What’s the alternative? Do you want to get out there and play?’ So that would just get me excited. I would imagine being back out on tour, and that would get me excited."
Nothing was more thrilling than the opening round of the $1.5 million tournament in the shadow of Atlantic City, an event that folded in the fall of 2006 after 21 years in a dispute over dates with LPGA leadership.
The LPGA reached an agreement with a new tournament director during the past year and ShopRite returned as the main sponsor.
Steinhauer gives the tournament a link with its past. She and Juli Inkster are the only players to compete in every ShopRite Classic.
Hawaii’s Michelle Wie opened with a disappointing 74 and was in a group with nine others. She had a double bogey on No. 2, followed by a bogey on No. 3, but salvaged the round with consecutive birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 to be 3 over.
Steinhauer had six birdies, an eagle and one bogey in taking a one-stroke lead over Natalie Gulbis and rookie Tania Elosegui of Spain.
Ai Miyazato, the Japanese star who has dominated the women’s tour with three victories this year, was in a group two shots back.
Cristie Kerr, who became the first American to win on the LPGA Tour when she won the State Farm Classic in Illinois on Monday, was at 3 under. Fifteen-year-old Alexis Thompson shot a par 71 in her professional debut.
The 54-hole tournament is scheduled to end tomorrow.