Paige Mackenzie carded a 67 before lunch yesterday, a score only Paula Creamer and Sherri Steinhauer could match.
Rookie Mackenzie proves worth the wait
Paige Mackenzie needed only a short stint in the business world to realize she preferred working outdoors.
In her first tournament as an LPGA Tour member, Mackenzie opened with a 5-under 67 yesterday to share the first-round lead with Sherri Steinhauer and Paula Creamer, four years her junior, at the season-opening SBS Open. While Creamer was busy turning pro at 18, Mackenzie remained an amateur as she mulled her career choices.
The University of Washington graduate, who majored in business, wasn't sure this golfing gig would pay off. But it didn't take her long to leave the real world behind to try her hand as a professional golfer. As an amateur in 2005, Mackenzie finished in a tie for 13th at the U.S. Women's Open, giving her confidence that she could hold her own with the world's best.
Last fall, she tied for 12th at the LPGA Tour qualifying school to earn her exempt status in the coming campaign. She turned pro in September, winning one event on the Cactus Tour, clearing the way for her to earn a sponsor's exemption at the Wendy's Championship for Children, where she managed a tie for 23rd.
Having that brief experience on tour kept the butterflies at bay as she began her career on the back nine of the Arnold Palmer-designed course at the Turtle Bay Resort in even par. The front side suited her eye much better, as she managed five birdies en route to a blistering 31 that carried her all the way to the top of the leaderboard.
In before lunch, Mackenzie spent the rest of the day wondering who would catch her as the other 137 players did their best to match her opening round. Only Creamer and Steinhauer managed to draw even, with another three golfers just one shot back, including Natalie Gulbis, who is still trying to get her first win.
Mackenzie spoke for about 10 minutes with a small media gathering as she talked about making memories with her new Nike golf clubs and revealing that she's not very good at reviewing her scorecard.
The one thing that did steady her nerves was the knowledge that she's now a full-fledged member of the LPGA Tour. Before, she felt like an outsider looking in. Now, she's just one of the girls.
"I don't feel weird if I want to go in the players lounge and hang out because I am a player now," Mackenzie said. "I feel more a part of the tour, instead of just a visitor, so that part is great. I feel very comfortable this week. But it wasn't scary or intimidating. I got that over early, last year and the year before. It made it nice. I didn't feel like such a rookie."
Former Big Island resident Kimberly Kim opened with a 73, sitting in a tie for 51st after one round.
One change she did make before embarking on her latest business venture was changing clubs. Playing all Ping for most of her young career, Mackenzie joined the Nike family in the fall with 11 of the 14 clubs in her bag belonging to the swoosh. She spent the first two weeks of the offseason getting acquainted with her clubs, a process that was more difficult than she first thought.
"I practiced a lot in the beginning and then I just went out and played," Mackenzie said. "What I didn't realize, when you change equipment, is that when you stand over the club how many good memories come back to you with the old clubs. With the new clubs, there are no good memories yet, so that is why I played a lot the last several weeks, because I wanted to build good feelings and thoughts."
Kim hangs tough: Former Big Island resident Kimberly Kim, one of two amateurs in the field, held her own against the world's best yesterday with an opening-round 73. The one-over finish left her in a tie for 51st and with a good opportunity to make the cut.
Kim opened with a bogey at the first, but came back with a birdie at the par-5 third. She bogeyed the next hole, but rallied once more with another birdie at the par-4 sixth to go out at even-par 36 on her opening nine.
The Arizona resident bogeyed the 11th, but quickly righted the ship again with a birdie at the par-5 12th. Kim bogeyed the 17th and was unable to birdie the par-5 finishing hole to close with her 73. She hit only six fairways and 11 greens in regulation and needed a ho-hum 31 putts to complete her round.
Past champions fade fast: Defending champion Joo Mi Kim and 2005 winner Jennifer Rosales will have to shoot lights out today just to be around for the finish tomorrow.
Kim debated on Wednesday whether she would jump in the water by the 18th if she won again, a problem that won't be coming her way after she fired a 5-over 77 yesterday to currently reside in a tie for 116th.
Rosales was even worse, with a 7-over 79 that left her in a tie for 129th. She shot a 41 on the front, thanks in part to double bogeys at the second and fourth holes. She had one birdie at the par-3 eighth and two more bogeys on the back nine.
Inside the numbers: The scoring average after the opening round was 73.666. The hardest hole was the par-3 fourth with an average of 3.420. There were only four birdies, 84 pars, 40 bogeys, eight double bogeys and two scores listed as others. The easiest hole was the par-5 third with a scoring average of 4.623. There were three eagles, 50 birdies, 81 pars and only four bogeys.