MIAMI: South Korea’s Jang Ha Na, fresh off making the first albatross in LPGA history, fired a seven-under par 65 on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) to grab a three-stroke lead after the first round of the Coates Championship.
Jang’s bogey-free round over the 6,541-yard layout at Florida’s Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club bolstered her bid for her first LPGA victory.
Six rivals shared second on 68 including England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff, South Koreans Chun In-Gee and Kim Sei-Young, American Kim Kaufman, Taiwan’s Candie Kung and Malaysia’s Kelly Tan.
Jang hit a hole-in-one last week on the par-4 eighth hole at the Bahamas LPGA Classic for a milestone albatross on her way to a share of 11th in the tour’s season opener.
“It felt like the albatross was very amazing,” Jang said. “It’s just skill, the albatross. I think 80 percent lucky, 20 percent my skill.”
Jang bought herself a new dog to celebrate her feat, naming the Pomeranian pooch Albatross.
“I have three dogs: Birdie, Eagle and Albatross,” she said. “I need one more dog, Hole-in-one.”
On Wednesday, Jang birdied the par-5 fifth and closed the front nine with back-to-back birdies, then birdied the par-3 11th, sank two more birdies in a row at 14 and the par-3 15th and closed with another at the par-5 18th.
“I felt very comfortable today because last year I had a second-place finish, so I really have more confidence on this golf course,” Jang said. “I like that it’s an old golf course, and was just thinking like on the fairway and the greens, there’s no problem because the weather is perfect.”
Tan was one off the lead but undone by bogeys at 16 and 18. Chun and Kung fired bogey-free rounds while Kaufman made bogey at 17 to fall out of solo second.
World number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand, playing her first round of the season, fired a 69 to share eighth along with France’s Karine Icher, South Korean Chella Choi, Thailand’s Thidapa Suwanna¬pura and Porna¬nong Phatlum and Americans Lexi Thompson, Lizette Salas, Mo Martin, Cristie Kerr and Juli Inkster.