By Murray Gleffe
HOBART-Katherine Kirk has missed five of the last six cuts on the LPGA tour.
There was no indication that her form would have produced a low score in round one.
However, she is at Thornberry Creek where every shot she hits seems to land close to the hole.
Kirk went out in the morning wave, birdied her opening three holes, and went onto shoot a 62 (ties course record) on opening day of the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
“I told myself on the first hole (started on the 10th hole) to play aggressively,” said Kirk. “I wanted to make as many birdies as possible because I knew the players would go low this morning with perfect greens and hardly any wind. I felt like an eight or nine under was possible, but I didn’t set a target number, no.”
After two pars on her fourth and fifth holes of the day, Kirk birdied her last four holes of the front nine to miraculously shoot a 29.
She added three more birdies on the back nine to close in 33 and shoot ten under for the day.
“Professionally, this is my best round ever,” Kirk said. “Ironically enough, I had my worst round as a pro last Friday at Kemper Lakes when I shot 83 in the second round and missed the cut by a bunch. It’s nice to be at a course where I feel there are generous fairways and a slight miss doesn’t get you into a ton of trouble. I will certainly be ready for tomorrow but right now I want to take the afternoon off and possibly go try some pickleball with my good friend Amy Olson.”
78 golfers shot three under or better on the day.
Shooting even par didn’t get you anywhere.
Most of the real low rounds, however, occurred in the morning when the greens were receptive and rolling true.
South Korea’s Sei Young Kim shot 63 in which she birdied six holes in a row from 11 through the 16th.
The United States is well represented just in back of the lead group.
Megan Khang had eight birdies and no bogies in posting a 64.
“Yeah, it was pretty good,” said Khang. “Curt (caddie) and I stayed steady out there. We let the birdies come to us. I hit some close shots to get things rolling, and then Amy and I kind of fed off each other on the front nine. With the 30 to 40-minute heavy rain the course got yesterday, I felt like I could attack even with a 6 iron.”
Khang has two missed cuts, a w/d, and a tie for 67th in her last four events so the low opening round was definitely a pleasant sight.
With the humidity down and the wind up, the greens firmed up a bit in the afternoon, but the scores continued to stay fairly low.
Emma Talley (Princeton, Kentucky) and Austin Ernst (Seneca, South Carolina) finished late in the day but both posted scores of 65 respectively.
Talley started her day with a bogey and then unimaginably rung up nine birdies in her next 10 holes.
The lone par in that stretch was at the par 4-fifth hole, where had she made a three, would have set the LPGA record for most consecutive birdies in a row.
Austin birdied three of the par 5’s en route to posting a clean scorecard on the day.
Ernst is coming off the heels of a second-place finish at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and a sixth-place finish at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.
World number three Ariya Jutanugarn started the day slow but finished with a 66.
Last week’s KPMG winner, Sung Hyun Park struggled with the putter all day shooting 74.
With a win this week, Park would overtake Inbee Park for the number one ranking.
For complete first round scores go to www.lpga.com/leaderboard