By Beth Murrison, USGA
BARRINGTON, R.I. (August 8, 2011) -- Jihee Kim, who made a 14-hour flight from her home in Korea to play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, shot a 5-under-par 66 to take a two-stroke lead following Monday’s first round of stroke play at the 6,399-yard, par-71 Rhode Island Country Club.
The 17-year-old Kim made eight birdies, including a 25-footer on the par-4 18th hole. The U.S. Women’s Amateur marks the first time she has played in a championship conducted by the United States Golf Association, although she was a member of the victorious Korean team at the 2010 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Argentina last fall.
“I am proud of myself for playing well,” Kim said through an interpreter, her uncle John Pih. “This is one of the most historic tournaments, 111 years old, and everything is perfect so I feel comfortable.”
Kim birdied the first hole with a 22-foot putt. Beginning at the fourth hole, she made three consecutive birdies. Another birdie came on the eighth. On the inward nine she birdied Nos. 11, 15 and 18. Her score was marred by bogeys at the third, seventh and16th holes. Kim is becoming accustomed to shooting low scores in competition. At last year’s Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, she recorded a 9-under-par 62.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is Kim’s last amateur competition. She will turn professional in the fall to compete on the Korean LPGA Tour.
Mariel Galdiano, 13, of Pearl City, Hawaii, and Xi Yu Lin, 15, of the People’s Republic of China, finished two strokes behind Kim. Both Galdiano and Lin played in the U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., last month.
Galdiano said the experience gained at the Women’s Open is helping her at Rhode Island Country Club this week.
“I learned from seeing all those people watching you that you have to really focus and not really pay attention to them,” said Galdiano, whose round was highlighted by a 30-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole. “So when I come out to the Women’s Am where there’s not as many spectators, it’s a little bit easier and I’m not that nervous.”
Two U.S. Girls’ Junior champions were among the 12 golfers to finish the first round under par. Doris Chen, 18, of Bradenton, Fla., the 2010 champion, fired a 2-under 69 and Ariya Jutanugarn, 15, of Thailand, who claimed the 2011 championship two weeks ago, finished at 1-under 70.
“I played pretty solid,” said Chen, who along with Jutanugarn also played in the Women’s Open last month. “I managed to get some up-and-downs and made good putts too.”
Defending champion Danielle Kang, 18, of Westlake Village, Calif., opened with an even-par 71. Kang is trying to become the first repeat champion since Kelli Kuehne in 1995-96.
There were two suspensions of play during the first round due to dangerous weather situations. The first delay lasted 38 minutes and the second lasted 37 minutes. Despite the delays, all players completed the first round.
After a second day of stroke play Tuesday, the U.S. Women’s Amateur field will be reduced to 64 players for match play. The first round of match play is scheduled for Wednesday, the second and third rounds will be played Thursday, the quarterfinals will be played Friday and the semifinal matches will be played Saturday. The Women’s Amateur concludes with the 36-hole championship final Sunday.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Beth Murrison is the director of public services for the USGA. E-mail her at email@example.com.