By Tony Webeck
Playing good friend and fellow Aussie Su Oh for a feed has proven to be the ideal preparation as Hannah Green took a one-stroke lead on day one of the Lotte Championship in Hawaii.
After nine years at the Ko Olina Golf Club, this year the Lotte Championship has moved to Hoakalei Country Club at Ewa Beach on Oahu, giving players a blank canvas on which to plan their strategy.
Green and caddie Nate Blasko rode the trademark Hawaiian winds to an opening round of six-under 66 in Round 1, one clear of Aditi Ashok, Alison Lee, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Gemma Dryburgh and Hyo Joo Kim.
Like Green, Sydney’s Sarah Kemp chipped in for birdie at the par-4 sixth in her round of four-under 68, just two shots behind the West Australian and tied with Haeji Kang, Gaby Lopez and Janie Jackson in a share of seventh.
Tied for eighth in her last start at the Chevron Championship, Green played a practice round with Oh and England’s Georgia Hall to bring some competitive heat to her reconnaissance of a new golf course and it paid off with a strong start.
“I played a practice round with Georgia and Su and we were playing for lunch and dinner,” Green explained.
“Just trying to get as many competitive rounds out there as possible before the tournament.
Playing in the morning groups, Green saw the wind increase throughout her round and become unpredictably gusty.
Whether on the LPGA Tour or PGA TOUR Hawaii has proved to be a happy hunting ground for Aussie golfers and Green is hoping to harness it again in Thursday’s second round.
“Your ball-striking really shows,” Green says of the affinity of Australian players in Hawaii.
“I feel like if you mis-hit it in the wind it really reflects your mis-hit. Today I feel like I hit the ball really well – I don’t know how many greens I hit – but I felt like I hit all the shots where I wanted them. It’s been a while since I’ve done that.
“I feel like the windier it gets and the harder it gets, I like that. I feel like I like the challenge. I might not say that tomorrow if I have a bad score, but, you know, it makes you think.”
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One-over through her first four holes, Kemp responded by making birdies at three of the next four and added three more on the back nine to make steady progress up the leaderboard.
It was a positive step forward for the 36-year-old whose only made cut this year is a tie for 56th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
Playing in just her second event as a member of the LPGA Tour Stephanie Kyriacou shot 71 to be tied for 26th at one-under, Karis Davidson (74) and Su Oh (74) both in need of a strong showing in Round 2 to progress to the weekend rounds.
It was a difficult day for Queensland’s Sarah Jane Smith who had two double bogeys and one triple bogey in her round of 80.
Tied for 11th midway through his second round, Travis Smyth is the best-placed Australian at the Asian Tour’s Trust Golf Asian Mixed Stableford Challenge in Thailand.
Jake Higginbottom has completed two rounds and is in a share of 33rd with 11 points in the Modified Stableford format, level with Whitney Hillier who has only just started her second round.