Buhai starts Kia Classic with 2-under

Ashleigh Buhai got the Kia Classic on the LPGA Tour off to a solid start on Thursday with an opening two-under-par 70 in windy conditions at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California.

She made four birdies ahead of the turn after an early start brought her calm conditions, and then, as the wind came up, she battled home down the stretch to finish the day in an eight-way share of ninth place behind first-round leader Inbee Park of South Korea on six-under.

“I got off to a really good start on the front side,” said Buhai. “It was nice to have some fresh greens being first out. And then somebody turned on the fan for that back nine literally as we got through our 10th hole. The wind really picked up and was swirling. So it got tricky on that back nine. Disappointed to finish with a bogey, but I hit a good shot and the wind took it a little more than I expected. Still very solid.

“The back nine is definitely more challenging. You know, it’s good finishing holes. You got to hit good shots coming in and I did that; just like I said, unfortunately finished with a bogey. I would’ve taken two-under at the beginning of the day.”

Park was her usual solid self, making six birdies in a bogey-free start which gave her a one-stroke edge over countrywoman Hyo Joo Kim, who made eight birdies, but dropped three shots with three bogeys.

Stephanie Meadow of Northern Ireland, Mel Reid of England, Germany’s Sophia Popov and In Gee Chun of South Korea were in a share of third at four-under.

For Buhai, it is a question of converting the solid starts she has had recently into a tournament-long effort to keep her in contention. “I think there is always somehow that one round that gets in, so I got to learn to eliminate that,” she said. “I’m very happy with where my game is at the moment. I’m feeling confident when I get up to hit the shots.”

Fellow South African Paula Reto is also in the field, and she opened with a six-over 78.

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