SYLVANIA, Ohio (AP) — Se Ri Pak isn’t sure why she plays so well at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. Everyone else in the field wonders what her secret is, too.
The four-time tournament winner shot an 8-under 63 on Thursday to take the first-round lead. It was the best opening round in the tournament’s 23-year history.
Alena Sharp was two shots back at 6 under. Only five others were within five shots of the lead, including defending champion Mi Hyun Kim.
Pak bogeyed her first hole, after hitting into the rough, then strung together three consecutive birdies. She ran off five birdies on the back nine, making a 25-putt on the 17th hole.
She is trying to match Mickey Wright’s tour record of five victories in one event and knows the course better than any player in the tournament.
“Everyone asks why, I don’t know,” she said. “I always feel comfortable here.”
Pak won her first Farr title in 1998 when she was 20 and always seems to be in contention. She also won in 1999, 2001 and 2003.
Canada’s Alena Sharp had seven birdies and one bogey to shoot 65. Her approach shot on the final hole nearly bounced in for eagle. Sharp is having her best season since turning pro in 2005.
“I learned last year how to make the cut,” she said. “This year I feel I have a good shot at winning a tournament.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself. It’s only Thursday.”
She has a history this year of starting fast before fading. She was within a shot of the lead after one round at the Wegmans LPGA last month only to finish tied for 64th.
Pak made a 15-foot putt on No. 11 and a 12-foot putt on the next hole to charge out in front. She then finished her round with a pair of birdies.
“I’ve won so many times and have so many great memories,” she said. “Maybe that’s why my game is a lot more solid on the golf course.”
Rookie Jin Young Pak, playing in her first tournament since hurting her back two months ago, finished at 4 under.
“I’m just happy I can play,” she said.
The Korean with the same last name as the first-round leader said she knew about this tournament before she left home because of Se Ri Pak’s success.
The dry, fast course provided a slew of low scores in the morning, a sharp contrast from a year ago when heavy rains drowned the fairways and threatened to cancel the tournament.
But strong, shifting winds made the course at Highland Meadows Golf Club a challenge later in the day.
Kim bogeyed her final hole after the wind pushed her tee shot far right. U.S. Open champion Cristie Kerr, playing in the same group, also bogeyed the blustery hole.
“It messed with us,” Kerr said.
Kim had five birdies and two bogeys to shoot 68. She won last year’s tournament with an 18-foot birdie putt on the third hole of a playoff to beat Natalie Gulbis.
Cari Wood, playing in the afternoon, birdied her first four holes and then contended with wind gusts that reached up to 25 mph.
“That’s just the luck of the draw,” she said.
Wood finished at 3-under 68 and was tied for third along with Kim, Aram Cho and Morgan Pressel.
“I just hit a few too many shots that got away from me,” Pressel said.
Kerr was among 13 players six shots behind the leader at 2 under. Also at 2 under were Brittany Lincicome and Laura Diaz.
Absent were the tour’s top two money leaders, Lorena Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen, along with 2000 tournament winner Annika Sorenstam.