Defending champion Katherine Kirk shot a 10-under-par 62 to take the first-round lead at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic on Thursday.
Kirk wasted no time in picking up from where she left off last year, when she snapped a seven-year, 152-tournament victory drought in the inaugural edition of the Classic. Starting on the back nine, Kirk opened with three consecutive birdies and ended her day with a perfect wedge into the par-5 ninth for a tap-in birdie.
“Obviously, I know you can go low out there, so stepping onto the first tee, I said, ‘Let’s play aggressively and make as many birdies as possible,’” she said. “Thankfully, it worked out. Having shot 9-under last year and I knew the conditions were going to be perfect this morning. … I got off to a hot start and tried to keep the pedal down on the (final) nine.”
Kirk needed to keep her foot on the gas because 21 players shot 6-under or better. Sei Young Kim was a stroke behind at 63, and Brittany Marchand and Megan Khang were tied at 64.
Emma Talley made a run at Kirk late in the afternoon. After an opening bogey, she made nine birdies in a stretch of 10 holes to get to 8 under through 11 before cooling off. She finished with a bogey and was one of seven players at 7 under.
“I was already counting in my head at one point, ‘What do I have to do to shoot 59?’ But it kind of went downhill from there,” Talley said.
Sung Hyun Park, who won her second career major in a three-person playoff at last week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, started with a bogey and never got rolling with a 2-over 74.
Nasa Hataoka, who lost to Park in the playoff after winning in Arkansas the week before, shot 3-under 69.
For Kirk, returning to the Green Bay area was perfect after missing the cut last week. Her second-round score of 11-over 83 was the worst of her career; Thursday’s round was her best, she said. After missing the cut five times in her last six events and going without a top-10 finish since February, she’s put herself back in contention.
“It is kind of generous off the tee (and) I’ve never been a very straight driver of the golf ball,” she said with a laugh. “There’s kind of a human element in there. Golf is funny. When you’ve played it as long as I have professionally, you realize that some days are going to be good and some days are going to be bad.”