Grace upstages major winners for Aussie Open lead – Golf Australia Magazine – The Women’s Game
The 21-year-old birdied her first five holes en route to a seven-under-par 66 to claim an early two-stroke advantage over major winners Hannah Green and Korea’s former World No.1 Jiyai Shin.
“I wasn’t expecting it but I’d take it any day,” Kim said.
“I think I took my chances pretty well. I had lots of good numbers, comfortable numbers for my wedge play.
“I guess to simply put it, I played easy golf.”
A prodigiously talented former Australian Amateur champion, Kim is contesting her first Open as a professional just two months after earning her LPGA Tour card.
The Sydneysider secured one of 10 cards on offer from the secondary Epson Tour after finishing fifth in the Race to the Card standings.
Hannah Green shares second with Jiyai Shin after an opening round of five-under. PHOTO: Australian Golf Media.
In doing so, Kim became the first Australian since Green in 2017 to gain promotion to the LPGA Tour via the secondary Tour and fittingly upstaged her celebrated compatriot on Thursday.
She briefly relinquished the lead to Green mid-round but wrestled it back with three more birdies on the back nine, including one at the last.
“I was definitely nervous at the start because I haven’t played a tournament in over a month now since I’ve been back,” Kim said.
“And you’re at home so expectations and pressures are pretty high but I just tried to embrace it all and try to enjoy it.”
Like Kim, Green bagged eight birdies in her round but dropped three shots on her inward nine to sign for a five-under 68 to be tied for second with Shin.
“I got off to a super-hot start so I’m really glad that I was able to get a couple coming in because I kind of lost it there,” Green said.
“But Kingston Heath is a brutal course so it’s bound to happen. I’m still very pleased with the start.”
New Zealand’s reigning Australian amateur champion Fiona Xu posted a four-under 68 at the neighbouring Victoria Golf Club to be outright fourth, while her compatriot Munchin Keh, Victoria member Steph Bunque, another former World No.1 So Yeon Ryu and AIG Women’s Open champion Ashleigh Buhai are a shot further back at three-under.
“I’ve definitely missed this. I’m sure everyone has,” Green said.
“I think that’s why the crowds are so big. I also think it helps when Adam Scott is playing behind you.
“But it was great for Thursday morning. I can’t imagine what the weekend will be like so hopefully everyone comes out and enjoys it.”
The main tournament drawcard Minjee Lee is at two-under in a share of ninth that could have been even better with a short eagle chance at the par-5 18th of Victoria going awry and costing her a chance for a second eagle on the day.
“I missed a few on the back nine that probably could have made,” Lee said. “It wasn’t like super tight, but there’s some. It would have really helped the momentum I think. But that being said, it was pretty tough out there. I had 2-under and hopefully I can have a good score tomorrow.”