ROGERS, Ark. (AP) — Sung Hyun Park has said one of her goals this season on the LPGA Tour is to win the Rookie of the Year award.
The South Korean might add the title of “winner” to her resume well before any season-ending awards, particularly after opening the NW Arkansas Championship with an 8-under 63 on Friday.
Park finished with nine birdies on her way to nearly matching the course record of 62, needing only 24 putts to take a two-shot lead over Mel Reid, Ally McDonald and So Yeon Ryu.
“My play was best with the putter today, very good,” Park said.
Reid also reached as low as 8 under midway through her round, making a hole-in-one on the par-3 11th. She used a 9-iron on the 135-yard hole, hitting it just past the flag before it spun back and rolled into the hole.
“As soon as I hit it, I thought, ‘Oh, it’s got a chance,'” Reid said.
Local favorite Stacy Lewis and 56-year-old Juli Inkster were at 66 along with Felicity Johnson, Moriya Jutanugarn, and Katherine Kirk. Defending champion and second-ranked Lydia Ko opened with a 70
The 34-year-old Park won seven times and was the top earner last year on the Korean LPGA tour, but she also played in seven LPGA Tour events with an eye on making the move to the U.S. She has finished in the top 10 four times this year, nine times in her 19 total LPGA Tour appearances.
All that is lacking to solidify her rapid rise into the ranks of the LPGA’s elite is a victory, possibly this weekend in advance of next week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“I wasn’t really surprised to see how well (Park) is (playing),” fellow South Korean Ryu said. “Even last year, she…