KAPOLEI, Hawaii(AP) Without much fanfare or a single sponsor on her cap, rookie Angela Park shot a 6-under 66 in windy conditions Thursday to take the early lead in the first round of the Fields Open.
Meaghan Francella survived a triple bogey to open with a 68, and South Korea’s Jeong Jang and Jee Young Lee shot 69s. Morgan Pressel, Se Ri Pak, Nicole Perrot and Song-Hee Kim were still on the course at 3 under.
The 18-year-old Park, making just her fourth LPGA Tour start, showed maturity and composure in difficult conditions at the wide-open Ko Olina Golf Course that even took seasoned pros out of their game.
“Everything I looked at went in,” Park said. “I was so confident (and) very comfortable on the greens.”
Park started strong, birdieing five of the first seven holes and making the turn at 31. She drove into the rough for a bogey on No. 10, but hit a wedge to set up her 7-foot birdie putt on 14 and sank a 25-footer for birdie on the 16th to reach 6 under.
“I felt really comfortable coming out here even though I didn’t know half the field,” she said. “It was nice to see people I’ve seen on TV and be able to play against them.”
Park earned her first LPGA paycheck last week – worth $6,625 – for her 33rd-place tie at the season-opening SBS Open. As an amateur, she tied for 15th at the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship, her only LPGA start of the year.
After a successful amateur career that included five AJGA wins, Park played on the Futures Tour last year and earned her LPGA Tour card by tying for fifth at Q-school.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do. This is my dream. So I’m living my dream,” she said.
Park is a Brazilian-born Korean who grew up in Torrance, Calif., and recently moved to Orlando, Fla. Her English, Korean and Portuguese abilities are as smooth as her putting.
She putted just 27 times during her round.
Francella, who spent most of 2006 on the Futures Tour, started on No. 10 and made the turn at 32. After parring No. 1, she went triple bogey-bogey-par-eagle-birdie. She birdied No. 8 to close out her wild back nine.
The scoreboard incorrectly listed Francella at 69 and was corrected more than an hour after her round after she spotted the error on TV.
Karrie Webb, who moved up a spot to No. 2 in the latest world rankings, was at 70 along with Wendy Doolan, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, Young Kim, Diana D’Alessio, Nicole Castrale and Virada Nirapathpongporn.
Webb, who won five events last year, started on No. 10 and made the turn at 35 before going birdie-birdie to open the back side. Her birdie on No. 5 moved her to 4 under, but she faltered with bogeys on Nos. 7 and 8.
Webb finished third at Turtle Bay last week after starting the year with a two-week Australian sweep. She won her third Women’s Australian Open title three weeks ago and added her sixth Australian Ladies Masters victory the following week.
Defending champion Meena Lee opened with a 71, leaving her tied with LPGA player of the year Lorena Ochoa and Ai Miyazato, who had a team of photographers from her native Japan following her every move.
Last year, Lee won the inaugural Fields Open for her second tour title, holding off Michelle Wie in regulation and beating Seon Hwa Lee on the third hole of a playoff.
Paula Creamer, who won the SBS and seeking a Hawaiian sweep, opened with a 72.
The afternoon groups included Julieta Granada, Cristie Kerr and rookie of the year Seon Hwa Lee.