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Natalie Sheary of West Hartford opened her quest for a third straight Connecticut State Women's Amateur title Monday by shooting a 1-over-par 73 for a one-stroke lead over Marika Lendl at Lyman Orchards Golf Club.


Sheary, 18, and Lendl, 17, from Goshen, are friends from the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla.


``She's like family to me, so I don't get nervous playing her,'' Sheary said. ``It really wasn't anything. She is used to my game and I'm used to hers.''


Tennis Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl and Michael Sheary caddied for their daughters.


Sheary closed with a par and birdie to overtake Lendl, who finished bogie-par on the par-4, 336-yard eighth hole and the par-5 483-yard ninth. The players teed off on the 10th hole of the 5,812-yard Robert Trent Jones course.


``I struggled shot-making wise,'' said Lendl, who missed the fairway on Nos. 8 and 9. ``I hit the ball terrible -- off the tee mostly, like 40-yard hooks. It was frustrating.''


Linda Lyons shot 76 and Alison Oakes, Jennifer Holland, Leah Steinmiller and Lisa Fern-Boros 77. Lida Tingley, winner of a record eight titles, withdrew for a family medical reason.


The low 54 and ties after the first two rounds advance to the final 18 holes Wednesday.


Sheary graduated from Conard High and spent the past year at Leadbetter's, which Lendl attends with her two sisters.


``We're like best friends,'' Lendl said of Sheary. ``She practically lived at my house. She lived in the dorms and my whole family lives there. She had her own room.''


Sheary is trying to join Futures Tour player Liz Janangelo and Connecticut Golf Hall of Famer Pat O'Sullivan Lucey as the only women to win at least three straight state amateurs. Sheary has a scholarship at Wake Forest and starts school Aug. 23. ``Liz won it five times and I want to beat her record,'' Sheary said. ``It also would be a good way to end the summer.''


Last week, Sheary shot 73-78--151, 7 over par, to qualify for match play in the U.S. Women's Amateur at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., before losing in the first round.

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