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From Worst To First, Kirk Grabs LPGA Lead

Katherine Kirk followed her worst round as a professional last week with her best Thursday in Wisconsin (Photo: Bruce Young)
It’s not uncommon for professional golfers to recover from a bad round quickly but even at the top levels of the game a 21-shot improvement has to be some sort of record.

Katherine Kirk missed the cut at last week’s Women’s PGA with a second round 83, the 11-over-par effort her highest score as a professional.

But despite what must have been a slightly embarrassing performance, the likeable Queenslander arrived in Wisconsin to defend her Thornberry LPGA Classic title in good spirits - and apparently even better form.

Kirk fired a stunning opening round of 10-under-par 62 on the Thornberry Creek course - ironically her best ever score as a professional - to hold a one stroke lead in an event that is already shaping as a low scoring affair.

“I know you can go low here,” Kirk said after the remarkable effort. 

“Stepping on the first tee I said 'let's make as many birdies as possible'.

“I got off to a hot start and tried to keep the pedal down so I'm glad it worked it out."

A hot start might be understating things. Kirk made three straight birdies to open her round then momentarily cooled with back to back pars.

Reeling off another four straight to go to the turn 7-under suggested she wasn’t done yet, however.

“When I turned 7-under I wasn’t really thinking a whole lot about score,” she said,

“I knew I had a good front nine but I know I can’t get ahead of myself because it usually goes AWOL.”

While three birdies on the inward journey probably felt pedestrian after that start, taking the lead after 18 holes on a course which holds such significant memories clearly has the 36-year-old feeling confident.

“I had no expectations to win, but there are good vibes here and I have a lot of confidence on this golf course,” she said.

“It's a fun golf course to play, but it's a marathon, not a sprint. You can only play one hole at a time and that’s all I did today.

“I just stayed in the moment and really happy that I putted well and made a lot of birdies.”

Despite the blistering start Kirk’s lead is only one shot from six-time Tour winner Sei Young Kim and two ahead of Canada’s Brittany Marchand and American Megan Khang

Low scoring was the order of the day with 111 Of the 144 strong field breaking par including Minjee Lee (-4, T34), Lydia Ko and Sarah Jane Smith (-3, T54) and Rebecca Artis (-2, T78).

Some of the game’s biggest stars struggled to keep pace in the opening round, last week’s winner Sung Hyun Park posting a 2-over 74 to be outside the top 100.

World Number Two Ariya Jutanugarn is at 6-under and T12, Brooke Henderson one shot better and sharing fifth.

MATT BALLARD ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MARRYING READ AND SPEED ON THE GREEN:

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