Conducted by the American Junior Golf Association, The Ping Invitational is a 54-hole stroke play event being held at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla. The 72-player field features players from 19 states, Canada, the Philippines and Thailand. The Boys Division is playing Karsten Creek at 7,379 yards, while the Girls Division is playing at 6,306 yards.
Beginning her round at Karsten Creek’s 10th hole, Kim was a birdie machine. She reeled off six birdies against one bogey on her front nine to make the turn at 5-under-par 31 and on pace to beat the women’s course record of 4-under-par. With two birdies and two bogeys on her back nine, she ended the day at 5-under-par, one better than the course-record 68 set by Esther Choe at The Ping Invitational in 2006.
“On the front nine, I stuck almost everything to within three feet for easy birdies,” Kim said. “I almost made a hole-in-one on the par-3 15th hole.”
It was a remarkable turnaround for Kim after she struggled at The Ping Invitational in 2008.
“I played here two years ago, but because I played so bad I didn’t want to come back,” said Kim, who skipped last year’s tournament. “I am kind of surprised. I didn’t think I was going to shoot this low.”
After mustering the courage to return, Kim now owns the women’s course record and a three-stroke lead. The Jutanugarn sisters, from Bangkok, Thailand, hold the second and third positions, with Moriya at 2-under-par 70 and Ariya at 71. Lindsey Weaver of Scottsdale, Ariz., carded an even-par 72 to stand in fourth place heading into Sunday’s second round.
In the Boys Division, Oliver Schniederjans is building upon his success from last year’s event, where he finished runner-up to Emiliano Grillo. Schniederjans churned out five birdies on the front for a 5-under-par 31. Despite a 1-over-par back side, he emerged with a one-stroke lead over Jordan Spieth of Dallas, Texas.
“What makes this course so hard is how fast the greens are downhill, so you really have to stay below the hole,” Schniederjans said. “The front nine I made some unbelievable putts. On the first hole, I missed a four-footer for birdie, but after that, I made some key putts.”
Schniederjans was at his best on holes 5-7, where he drained three consecutive birdie putts from 15 to 25 feet.
“It was probably one of the best nines I’ve ever played,” he said. “I hit the ball great and putted great. I normally do better on harder golf courses because I’ve been good around the greens and saving pars and par putting. I think that’s what helped me out here.”
Spieth trails by one shot at 3-under-par 69, while Yi Keun Chang of Diamond Bar, Calif., is third at 2-under-par 70. Shun Yat Hak of Lake Mary, Fla., stands alone in fourth, while five players are tied for fifth, including the defending champion Grillo.