by Ronan MacNamara
Stephanie Meadow by Golffile
Stephanie Meadow opened up her Walmart NW Arkansas Championship with a two-under-par 69.
The Jordanstown native is six shots behind the trio of A Lim Kim, Katherine Kirk and Eun-Hee Ji who all opened with bogey-free 63s which is a rare occurrence.
The 29-year-old mixed four birdies with two bogeys in her first round at Pinnacle Country Club
Meadow picked up an early birdie at the third but gave it back with a bogey at the fifth, before birdies at the eighth and 12th got her to two-under-par, although a bogey at 13 took her back to one-under.
Meadow who is 97th in the Race to CME Globe finished with a flourish as she birdied the 18th.
With only five events left before the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, Meadow needs some to find some form to push herself into the mix to compete in the LPGA Tour finale alongside Leona Maguire.
Joint leader Kim’s 63 is her career-best score, while Ji equalled her career-low round to sit alongside Kirk at the summit.
“Today I think my condition very nice, tee shot, or second or putting, that’s good. I tried my best today,” said Kim, who is making her first appearance in Arkansas.
“It was fun. I got off to a good start, and this is the kind of golf course where you just have to keep the pedal down. I was fortunately able to do that and rattled in, what, I think four birdies on each side. I’m really happy with the round,” said Kirk.
“You have to get off to a good start here. This is more of a sprint than a marathon, so super happy.”
Kirk remarkably has appeared in all 15 Walmart NW Arkansas Championships since its inception and the veteran is hopeful she can turn a corner this week after a difficult season.
“It has been a bit of a grind this year, so I have been hitting the ball well but haven’t been scoring well. It’s been a bit frustrating. As a veteran, I know I’ve got to remain patient and just keep doing the right things and eventually you’ll turn a corner. I felt like last week was a little bit of a turning point,” said Kirk. “I love this golf course, good memories and good vibes and it was just a matter of going out there and having some fun.”