(Feature Photo by Andrew Lee / Hawaii Media Source)
By Kyle Galdeira
Facing brisk trade winds gusting near 30 miles per hour, 144 of the world’s top female golfers aimed to tame the alluring-yet-challenging 6,383-yard layout of the LOTTE Championship Presented by Hershey at Ko Olina Golf Club in ‘Ewa, O‘ahu.
In her annual homecoming trip, local professional Michelle Wie carded an even-par opening round mark of 72 strokes. The LPGA tour veteran and Punahou product noted that, even though she is very familiar with the Ko Olina course after years of playing it, Wednesday’s winds proved difficult to manage.
“(It was) breezy out there,” Wie said. “I’m happy with the way I finished, and hopefully over the next couple of days, I make a couple more birdies.
“Back in the day, I was really used to (Ko Olina) because I played here every week. Now that I’m living on the mainland and come back, I get a little surprised by it,” Wie added. “It makes it a little bit tough tougher, but it’s fun. I like playing in the wind, and I think this golf course should be played in the wind.”
Shanshan Feng, the top-ranked golfer in the world out of China, established the first-round lead after posting a 5-under 67 on Wednesday. Feng, who has held the top spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings for 22 consecutive weeks, rallied after hitting one of the first five greens in regulation and countered a bogey on No. 10 (her first hole of the day) with six birdies over the remainder of the round.
“I think my ball striking is okay, but my putting has been pretty good,” Feng said. “So, very happy about that because I’ve been struggling with my putting. (I was) very happy about the round today.”
Brooke Henderson, Haeji Kang and rookie Martina Edberg are tied for second place, one stroke behind Feng.
Wie, who is still laboring to overcome a recent wrist injury and inner-ear ailment, is excited to continue her run before a large contingent of local fans on Thursday.
“I love seeing familiar faces in the crowd,” Wie said. “Playing in Hawai‘i, my home town, is a very special feeling – something that I cherish and look forward to every year.”