Lydia Ko tapped into a familiar formula to grab a share of the lead after the opening round of the CN Canadian Women's Open on Thursday.
A year ago in Vancouver, Ko utilized the knowledge of a local caddie on her way to becoming the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour. This time around, the 16-year-old opted to tap into the expertise of a member from Edmonton's Royal Mayfair Golf and Country Club, host of this year's tournament, to see if history would repeat itself.
So far, that plan seems to be working to perfection.
Ko birdied four of her first seven holes on her way to an opening round 5-under 65. Surprisingly, the South Korean-born New Zealander admitted it wasn't the start she was looking for.
"When I have a birdie on the first hole I haven't really played that well," said the number one ranked amateur in the world. "I was kind of nervous that I did make a birdie on the first. But I guess birdies are good."
Good enough for a share of the lead with Christel Boeljon of the Netherlands and American Angela Stanford, who posted a bogey-free round.
"I hit it really well, really solid," said the Texan, who admitted she considered skipping the tournament after a disappointing performance at the Solheim Cup.
"They say you learn the most from your losses, and I learned a lot from last week. The last few days have been tough. It was just nice to hit the ball."
Boeljon was one of few players in the afternoon wave to take a run at the leaders thanks in large part to a hole-in-one on the par-3 16th - her first as a professional.
"I think this round is the best I could have done," said the third year LPGA Tour player. "Of course the hole in one was super nice."
Paula Creamer said she wasn't exactly ready for her early morning tee-time, making bogey on the opening hole, but she settled down and finished strong with three birdies over her final five holes for a 66, one back of the co-leaders.
"The golf course has some bounce to the fairways and the rough is really thick, so you miss fairways and you're pretty much in trouble," explained Creamer, who finished runner-up to Lorena Ochoa when this event was last played at Royal Mayfair back in 2007.
"It really is a good test of golf out here, and you've got to be able to put the ball in the right spot. If not, it's going to be a long day out there."
A bogey on the final hole denied Cristie Kerr a share of the lead, leaving her tied with Creamer at 4-under.
Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont. finished as the top Canadian, opening with a 67 which left her two shots off the pace.
"I felt very comfortable out there and ended up making a few putts," said the 22-year-old who is making just her second LPGA start of the year.
"I think that it really helped that I played in the Manulife Financial Classic earlier this season and I had a good tournament there, so I think that kind of eased the nerves into this one."
World number one Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi and Karine Icher also sit tied with Kirby at 3-under par.
It was not a good day for Stacy Lewis, the No. 2 ranked player in the world. She stumbled out of the gate with five bogeys over her first seven holes before recovering somewhat on the back nine for an opening round 4-over 74.
"I played terrible all day," she said. "I was tired out there. Mentally I wasn't in it. Just coming off the last week is still tough."
Anything to work on prior to Friday? she was asked.
"No, honestly I need to get away from it right now. Probably the best thing I could do is walk away."
At the conclusion of play, Lewis announced she was withdrawing from the event due to an unspecified illness.
How the rest of the Canadians fared on day one:
Isabelle Beisiegel (Sainte-Hilaire, Que.) - 70 (E)
Samantha Richdale (Kelowna, B.C.) - 70 (E)
Lorie Kane (Charlottetown) - 71 (+1)
Maude-Aimee Leblanc (Sherbrooke, Que.) - 71 (+1)
Stephanie Sherlock (Barrie, Ont.) - 71 (+1)
Jessica Shepley (Oakville, Ont.) - 71 (+1)
Brooke Henderson (Smiths Falls, Ont.) - 72 (+2)
Anne-Catharine Tanguay (Quebec City) - 72 (+2)
Brittany Marchand (Orangeville, Ont.) - 74 (+4)
Sue Kim (Langley, B.C.) - 75 (+5)
Jessica Wallace (Langley, B.C.) - 75 (+5)
Rebecca Lee-Bentham (Toronto) - 76 (+6)
Sara-Maude Juneau (Fossambault, Que.) - 76 (+6)
Alena Sharp (Hamilton, Ont.) - 76 (+6)
Jennifer Ha (Calgary) - 77 (+7)
Natalie Gleadall (Stratford, Ont.) - 78 (+8)
Augusta James (Bath, Ont.) - 82 (+12)
Nicole Vandermade (Brantford, Ont.) - 85 (+15)
Nicole Forshner (Banff, Alta.) - 89 (+19)
OLD TIMER: Jennifer Kirby has yet to get her professional career off the ground but on Thursday at the CN Canadian Women's Open, she was the elder statesman in her grouping that included 16-year-old Lydia Ko and 17-year-old Charley Hull.
"I think that they're wise beyond their years and they're both great players, so it wasn't too bad," said the 22-year-old Kirby. "I didn't feel too old."
While she is the defending champion this week, Ko is still not the youngest player in the field. That honour belongs to Canadian Brooke Henderson, who at 15 is making her second consecutive Canadian Open start.
"It's definitely getting younger and younger," said Ko, who became the youngest player to win an LPGA event last year. "I'm not sure why that is happening. Age really doesn't mean as much as it would maybe in just a normal life situation."
COMING OR GOING: Angela Stanford admits she almost made a u-turn for Texas rather than come to Edmonton after a disappointing Solheim Cup performance last week. The Forth Worth native was one of only two American players who failed to win a match in Colorado, going 0-4.
Instead, Stanford decided to throw herself right back into the fray at this week's CN Canadian Women's Open. That decision proved be a sound one after she opened with a bogey-free round of 65 and a share of the first round lead.
"I thought about going home a few times (but) the best thing was for me to get back on the horse," said Stanford. "I had to get out and play."
Stanford said the narrow fairways at Royal Mayfair Golf and Country Club forced her to focus a little more off the tee, which in turn helped the fiery Texan keep the emotions in check - something she admits was more of a challenge coming off the events of last weekend.
"I need to learn how to control my emotions, and that hasn't been a secret," explained Stanford. "It was nice to be more flat lined out there today. I didn't get real upset (even though) the last few days have been tough. It was just nice to hit the ball."
A Canadian detour might be just what Stanford needs at this time. She just missed winning the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ont., after losing in a playoff and she's posted a pair of top-five results in the last four Canadian Open championships.
With files from The Canadian PressReport Typo/Error
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