Hurst Park Lead Ochoa Webb Close


2006 Longs Drugs ChallengeDANVILLE, California -- Pat Hurst balanced on one leg and pumped her fist after sinking a 20-foot putt from the fringe for eagle on the final hole, giving her a share of the lead in the Longs Drugs Challenge.
The 38-year-old Hurst, clad in lime green from her polo shirt and shorts down to her shoelaces, shot a 5-under 67 on Thursday to tie for the best first-day score with a woman nearly half her age in Inbee Park of South Korea.
World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa was among seven others two strokes back of the leaders after the first 18 holes in this ritzy San Francisco suburb in the East Bay.
'I've been hitting the ball pretty well,' Hurst said. 'I haven't been scoring as well as I'd like and we've been working hard on my game. It's turning around a little bit now. Too bad it's the end of the season, but hopefully it will carry over into the beginning of next season.'
Hurst recovered from a double bogey after she four-putted on No. 11, her second hole of the day, to that exciting eagle on the 505-yard, par-5 ninth in front of her loyal fans who waited around in the chilly, windy conditions to cheer on the Bay Area native. Hurst grew up in nearby San Leandro and is used to the elements and unpredictable weather on the local courses.
If she keeps this up, Hurst might be pushing it to make it on time to her 20th high school reunion Saturday night. The leaders begin their rounds in the afternoon.
While it's been 1 1/2 decades since Hurst used to play at Blackhawk Country Club, having some knowledge of the hilly course certainly helped. She now lives in Arizona.
'My husband's family used to live out here, so we used to play out here quite a bit,' she said. 'It's been a long time, but still you get to know a golf course and the memories come back after you play it a couple of times.'
For Park, putting proved the difference in her opening round. She brought in a friend from their days of junior golf to be her caddie this week.
And Park was thrilled with the job Eric Back did reading the tricky greens -- especially considering she struggled all round with her tee shots.
'He's not a professional caddie, but he's a really good player,' Park said. 'He really helped me reading the breaks.'
Ochoa, trying to win for the fourth time in her last five tournaments and become the first woman to earn $3 million in a single season, shot a 69 and was tied with several others including defending champion Karrie Webb for second place behind the 19-year-old Park.
Park made five birdies and needed only 24 putts, sinking a 40-foot putt on the par-3, 155-yard seventh hole and a 20-footer on No. 12. After finishing her round and grabbing a late lunch, she was headed for the driving range to hit more balls. That extra practice, she hopes, will help her stay around until the final round Sunday.
'I didn't strike the ball well today,' Park said. 'But I putted really great. I made most every putt. It was windy and a really tough course to walk. But I'm in good shape. ... So far so good.'
Ochoa was happy to be on the leaderboard after Day 1, something she strives for in each event she plays.
The 25-year-old Ochoa tied for third in the inaugural Navistar LPGA Classic last weekend in Prattville, Ala., behind winner Maria Hjorth and Stacy Prammanasudh. That ended Ochoa's run of three straight tour victories -- and her chance at becoming the first to win four straight events since Annika Sorenstam did it in 2004-05.
Prammanasudh was another who had a 69 on Thursday.
'I'm going to play in the morning, and I'm going to take advantage of that,' Ochoa said. 'I like to be in a good position for the first round, just to be in the right number and the first few places. ... That's one of the things I've been trying to work on this year: trying to get a good round and not be too far behind. It seems it's important for me to get a good start.'
Canadian Lorie Kane was among those with 69s and two strokes back in a 108-player field that is missing 2006 runner-up Sorenstam. Kane entered the tournament ranked 91st on the money list and the top 90 after this event will receive full exemptions for 2008.
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