Song Ga-eun (23-MG Saemaul Bank), Park Hyun-kyung (23-Korea Land Trust) and Lee So-young (26-Lotte) shot a 5-under 67 to share the lead after the first round of the Hana Financial Group Championship (KRW 1.5 billion – KRW 270 million in prize money), the twenty-fifth event of the 2023 season on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf (KLPGA) Tour, at Bears Best Cheongna (Par 72, 6,712 yards) in Cheongna, Incheon, on Thursday (Nov. 21).
Song recorded six birdies and one bogey in the first round, while Lee So-young and Park Hyun-kyung combined for six birdies and no bogeys to finish the first round at 5-under.
Song teed off on the 10th hole at 08:30 in the morning. She got off to a good start with her first birdie on the 11th (par-4), and then settled in with birdies on the 13th, 15th, and 17th holes.
However, she dropped a putt on the 18th (par-4) for her first bogey of the day, dropping three strokes at the halfway point. She added two more birdies in the second half to finish the first round at 5-under par.
In her post-match interview, Song said, “I hit the ball well today and didn’t make any big mistakes, so I had a lot of birdie opportunities and finished well with my putts. There were a few putts that I missed, so I’m a little disappointed,” she said of her first round performance.
On his favorite shot in the first round, he said, “My second shot was the best. I didn’t make any big misses and recovered easily,” he said, adding, “I think my second shot was the reason I was able to make a lot of birdies.”
“I missed the cut last year at this tournament because of the pressure of being the defending champion. The course was different than when I won, but I had experienced it once last year and I was energized for this tournament, so I played more confidently today, which I think led to a good result.”
“Being in the top 10 is a small start,” said Song, who added, “I played well today, but every day is different, so I will play with a new mindset in the second round tomorrow (Feb. 22).”
Song will be looking for her third career victory in about a year and two months after winning the Daebo Howdy Open last year.
Park Hyun-kyung also joined the tie for the lead, using a focused effort to earn her fourth win in two years and five months. Park played flawlessly in the first round, recording five birdies without a bogey.
Park finished the first round with a steady performance, not making any major mistakes and not dropping any shots. “After last week’s tournament, I realized that I couldn’t continue like this, so I started working on my shots,” she said. “When I get nervous, my body stiffens and I often hook. So, I was holding my grip with a wicked grip, which caused my shots to open and close, so I’m trying to get a normal grip,” he said after the first round.
With three runner-up finishes this season, Park had many chances to win, but there were some tournaments where she just missed out. “I keep doubting myself because it seems like I can do it, but I can’t. Can I really do well? I’m trying to get rid of those doubts,” he said.
“Like today, I’m trying to control myself by focusing on what I can correct and not being influenced by the circumstances around me,” she said.
As for her tournament goals, Park said, “From tomorrow, I will compete in the windy afternoon. I can’t control the natural part, so if it’s windy, I’ll play according to the wind, if it’s not, I’ll play according to the wind.”
Another co-leader, Lee So-young, said, “I played bogey-free today. I had a couple of close calls, but I made good saves. Overall, my shots were good and my putts were good, so I played steady.”
Madasom (24-Samcheon-ri), who won her first career title at last week’s OK Financial Group Eatman Open, is one 토토 shot off the lead and tied for fourth place at 4-under par, and will look to continue her winning ways for the second straight week.
Choi Hye-jin (24, Lotte), Lee Da-yeon (26, Mediheal), defending champion Kim Soo-ji (27, Dongbu E&C) and rookie Choi Ga-bin (20, Samcheon-ri) rounded out the top six at 3-under.
Lee Ye-won, who leads the money list and grand prize points, is in a tie for 10th place at 2-under and will be looking to break the 1 billion won mark for the first time this season. Lee has earned KRW 999,544,197 this season.
Australia’s Lee Min-ji (27, Hana Financial Group) and New Zealand’s Lydia Go (26, Hana Financial Group), who both play on the U.S. Women’s Professional Golf Tour (LPGA), are tied for 19th at 1-under par.