CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — The first LPGA Tour event of the year on U.S. soil opened with a decidedly South Korean feel.
Na On Min shot a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the inaugural Kia Classic at La Costa.
Teeing off in the morning before the wind picked up, she led three other South Koreans atop the leaderboard. Na Yeon Choi was one stroke back while Seon Hwa Lee and Inbee Park were two back, tied with Catriona Matthew of Scotland.
Kia is based in South Korea, as is presenting sponsor J Golf.
“I’m just so proud of it,” Min said. “I was so proud being Korean this week. Whole week I kept saying this is my country’s company. It was nice. I hope it’s going to be continued, yeah.”
Japanese star Ai Miyazato, the first LPGA Tour player in 44 years to sweep the first two events of a season, had a poor start with a 2-over 74 and was in an 18-way tie for 59th. No LPGA player has won the first three tournaments in a season.
Michelle Wie, trying for her second win as a professional, closed with three bogeys in her last six holes and was in a 13-way tie for 24th at 72.
No. 1 Lorena Ochoa was in a five-way tie for eighth at 70.
This is the first full-field LPGA stop in the San Diego area since 1993 and the tour’s debut at La Costa. The resort formerly hosted the Mercedes Championships and the Accenture Match Play Championship before those tournaments moved elsewhere.
Min teed off at 7:15 a.m., long before the breeze picked up across the course. The highlight of her round was a birdie putt of approximately 45 feet on her fourth hole, the par-4 13th.
“I feel pretty good on my putting today,” she said. “It was the best thing. I’m not complaining. I was happy.”
The top American was Amanda Blumenherst, who was tied for sixth at 3 under with Kin-Kyung Kim of South Korea.
“It went really well,” Blumenherst said. “I hit the ball very solid. It got very windy, so that made it a little bit tougher but I was still hitting the ball very solid and was putting very well. I was kind of playing boring golf, but that was nice.”
The tour began with stops in Thailand and Singapore before taking a break of nearly a month.
“It’s so nice being here in Southern California and playing in the states,” Blumenherst said. “We’ve been out of the country for five weeks so it’s great having it here.”
Wie was 2 under through 11 before missing putts on Nos. 13 and 14 for consecutive bogeys.
“I think it’s just the greens,” she said. “I felt I hit good putts and they just didn’t go in.”
Wie earned her first win as a professional at the end of last season.
“I think I did pretty well. I feel like I hit the ball pretty good,” she said. “I want my irons to be a little closer tomorrow. It was just hard putting here this afternoon. A couple of these putts were just going 10 different directions. I think there’s a lot of improvement to be done for tomorrow, but hopefully I’ll shoot a really low score.”