Barrington, R.I. – 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 on Monday to take a two-stroke lead over early finishers in the first round of stroke-play qualifying at the 6,399-yard, par-71 Rhode Island Country Club.
Xi Yu Lin, 15, of the People’s Republic of China, who started play on the second nine, finished two strokes behind Kim with a 3-under-par 68. She bogeyed the ninth hole, her last of the day.
The 17-year-old Kim made eight birdies, including a 25-footer on the par-418th 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 the 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, , she fired 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.
Two U.S. Girls’ Junior champions were also among the early leaders. Doris Chen, 18, of Bradenton, Fla., the 2010 champion, fired a 2-under-par 69. Ariya Jutanugarn, 15, of Thailand, the 2011 champion, finished at 1-under-par 70.
I played pretty solid, said Chen. I managed to get some up-and-downs and made good putts too.
After receiving more than an inch of rainfall on Sunday, the players said this course on Narragansett Bay had drained surprisingly well, although a few wet areas were in the rough.
You certainly need to hit it on the fairway here, Chen said, or you need to have a good short game.
Austin Ernst, 19, of Seneca, S.C., the 2011 NCAA Division I individual champion, was among a group of players that finished at even-par 71, after suffering bogeys on her last two holes. The NCAA competition was a 72-hole stroke-play championship.
I’m just trying to get medalist (honors) and from there go through matches and win one match at a time, said Ernst. I kind of go about match play the same way as stroke play. You’re still just playing the course.
Another wave of 78 golfers had afternoon starting times, including defending champion Danielle Kang of Westlake Village, Calif.
After 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, the low 64 players will advance to match play beginning on Wednesday. The championship concludes with a scheduled 36-hole final on Sunday.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. For questions or comments, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.