RTJ Capitol Hill – September 17, 2021

A bogey-free, 6-under par 66 on the Senator Course at Capitol Hill in the first round of the Guardian Championship launched Janie Jackson (Huntsville, Alabama) into a share of the lead.

“I tend to always feel really comfortable playing out here because I’ve been playing out here since, I don’t know, maybe 14 or 15. So, I know it pretty well,” said Jackson. “Typically, if I’m striking the ball well then you can score good out here. I knew that coming here, so I worked my ball striking a bunch the last two weeks. Everything feels good and greens are tough, so it felt good to roll some putts in today.”

After finishing last season at No. 5 in the Race for the Card, Jackson used the status she gained and has split the season on both the LPGA and Symetra Tour. She has made five cuts in seven starts on the LPGA Tour with a season best of T27 at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational. On the Road to the LPGA, the Alabama University alumna has made four cuts in six starts with a season best of T15 at the Copper Rock Championship.

“I mean I’m in a tricky spot having split my year here and out there,” said Jackson. “But I told David (her caddy) before we teed off this week, I’m here, all I can do every day is go out and try to play the best golf that I can. It doesn’t matter where I am and this week, I’m here so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Joining Jackson atop the leaderboard is Jackson State University alumna Shasta Averyhardt (Flint, Michigan), who used seven birdies and one bogey get to 6-under par. In her last two starts on the Symetra Tour, Averyhardt has missed the cut. With two weeks off before the Guardian Championship she took the time to best prepare herself for the final stretch of the season.

“After my performance in Idaho, I was really upset with just ball striking and emotional instability; I was just really fragile. I decided I’m not going to take any days off and I got with my coach, and I said, ‘I need you to help me,” said Averyhardt. “I worked really hard on my ball striking and my short game. And then more so I’ve been reading a book that’s been helping me understand ‘flow.’ And it’s hard. It’s easy to describe but it’s hard to do consistently, so the book is explaining like how the process to get into flow. Does it always happen? Maybe not but I want it to happen more often. So, I was trying it out this week and just more calm state of mind. And being positive. Even with these lovebugs that are so irritating to just like let it go. Deal with it.”

Beyond educating herself on her mental and physical golf game, this week Averyhardt and a few additional Symetra Tour members took a local trip to learn more about their ancestry at the Rosa Parks Museum.

“There’s so much history down here and so we decided first to go to the Civil Rights Museum, but they were closed. So, we were like ‘Plan B, Rosa Parks Museum.’ We were really happy we went because we got the details of the Rosa Parks boycott that we didn’t really learn about in school,” said Averyhardt. “At least for myself, it helped me appreciate my ancestors and how hard or how determined they were for fairness and for equality. It made me very conscience, even more conscience than I am. Just very mindful and very appreciative.”

One of three individuals tied for third at 5-under par in Prattville is Road to the LPGA rookie Amanda Doherty (Atlanta, Georgia). The performance was her second-best opening round this season.

“I really like the course. It played different than the first practice round versus the rest of the week. It got a little dry that first day,” said Doherty. “I really like it. It’s not like a lot of courses you see, it’s more links style which you don’t really see that much over here so it’s fun.”

Doherty found her momentum mid-season claiming five top-10 within six starts. She even found herself in a playoff at the IOA Golf Classic presented by RP Funding, where she took home her career-best of runner up to Allison Emrey. This swing if tournaments have helped her climb the rankings to No. 9 in the Race for the Card, but she has missed the last two cuts.

“I feel pretty good. The last couple weeks hadn’t been great. I’ve worked on some stuff with my coach and got that all squared away, feels like at least,” said Doherty. “I am trying to find a balance between rest and working on stuff, because we do have four weeks straight. You don’t want to go at it too hard when you do have time to rest, so I am consistently working on trying to find the best balance between the two.”

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