Leader Castrale carries marital togetherness to the course

HAVRE DE GRACE, Maryland Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:14pm EDT

1 of 2. Nicole Castrale from the U.S. watches her drive on the ninth hole during the first round of the LPGA championship at the Bulle Rock golf course in Havre De Grace, Maryland June 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Tim Shaffer

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HAVRE DE GRACE, Maryland (Reuters) - Nicole Castrale relies on her husband for help on the course and it paid off on Thursday as the Californian fired a seven-under-par 65 to grab the first-round lead at the LPGA Championship.

Craig Castrale caddies for his wife and gives her strategic advice during rounds which she finds invaluable.

"I think what really works for Craig and I is Craig caddied out there on tour before we met," Castrale told reporters after taking a one-shot lead over Swedish rookie Anna Nordqvist.

Castrale previously carried for LPGA Tour veteran Laurie Rinker. He caddied for Nicole, whose maiden name is Dalkas, in some Monday qualifying rounds in 2002 and 2003 when she had limited status on the LPGA Tour.

They married in 2005.

"From the start I trusted him because he was a very well-respected caddie out here," she said. "He's one of the best caddies out here. I'm fortunate to have been able to snatch him on and off the course.

"I'm fortunate that Craig is out there when I practice and he sees what I can and can't pull off, basically. So he knows me probably better than I know myself."

Nicole, who tied for 10th in the last two LPGA Championships at Bulle Rock, also relies on her husband to line her up on her full shots.

"You know, eventually, long term, I'd like to be a little more independent out there. I'm just not quite ready to do it," added Nicole, who turns 30 this month.

The Castrales have had a quiet season leading up to the year's second women's major, with no top 10s. Last year, she registered six top 10 finishes and eight the year before, including her sole LPGA tournament title at the Ginn Tribute.

Three years ago, she shot a career best 64 in this event.

"I like majors," she said, noting she had also been helped by coach Bill Harmon. "I like when you have to hit great shots."

Castrale hopes it all comes together for a major title.

"This is our sixth season together, and we keep growing and we keep getting better," she said of her partnership with husband Craig. "We're out here trying to do the best we can and we're very blessed for this to be our job."

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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