(Reuters) – Canadian teenager Brooke Henderson recorded her first ever ace on the LPGA Tour as she charged into a two-stroke lead with a four-under-par 67 in the opening round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Washington on Thursday.
The 18-year-old struck a seven-iron from 152 yards at the par-three 13th, her fourth hole of the day at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, and then watched in delight as her ball disappeared into the cup.
“I pulled my shot a little but it caught the left apron and funneled right in,” Henderson told reporters after ending the day two ahead of American Christina Kim and South Korean Kim In-kyung in the second women’s major of the year.
“The crowd went nuts, so it was pretty cool,” said world number four Henderson, who won a 2016 Kia K900 car thanks to her ace. “It gave me a boost going into some tough holes. Three more rounds to go.”
Henderson, who clinched her first LPGA Tour title last August in Portland on a similar Pacific Northwest course layout, relied on a red-hot putter as she hit just 10 of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens, totaling only 23 putts during the round.
Six players opened with 70s, among them red-hot Thai Ariya Jutanugarn, who has won on her past three LPGA starts, Australian Minjee Lee and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen.
New Zealand’s world number one Lydia Ko, seeking her third career major after landing the ANA Inspiration in March, was a further stroke back after carding a 71.
Ko played in the morning alongside American standouts Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis but neither of them could keep pace. Lewis carded a 73 while Thompson struggled to a 75.
“My ball striking was good today, I just missed a few fairways,” Ko told ESPN. “(The course) is really tough. The fairways and greens have really dried out. I just have to play smart.”
South Korean world number two Park In-bee, the three-time defending champion at the event, capped a memorable day by qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame after shooting a one-over 72.
Park, who has been battling an ongoing injury in her left thumb which forced her to withdraw from her previous two starts, became the 24th member and youngest to qualify since compatriot Pak Se-ri at age 27.
“It feels surreal. I have been dreaming of myself being in the Hall of Fame so many times,” Park said. “This truly feels amazing. I’m really going to enjoy today and there are so many people that helped me get here.”
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)