Meadow makes solid start but trails by six in Arkansas

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Stephanie Meadow (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Jordanstown’s Stephanie Meadow is six shots off the lead after the opening day of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship after a two-under 69 in her opening round.

The former World Invitational champion mixed four birdies with two bogeys in her first round at Pinnacle Country Club to trail leaders A Lim Kim, Katherine Kirk and Eun-Hee Ji.

Meadow traded a birdie at the third with a bogey at the fifth, before birdies at the eighth and 12th got her comfortably under-par, although a bogey at 13 took her back to one-under. But the 29-year-old had a strong finish, birdieing the par-five 18th to card a 69, which represents a solid day’s work to begin her tournament.

However, she already has ground to make up on Kim, Kirk and Ji, who all opened with bogey-free 63s to take an early one-shot lead from America’s Sarah Burnham.

With only five events left before the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, Meadow is currently 97th in the Race to CME Globe and knows she needs some strong results to push herself into the mix to compete in the LPGA Tour finale.

Meanwhile, Kim’s 63 is her career-best score, while Ji tied her low mark, which she last recorded in the first round of the Honda LPGA Thailand. Kirk’s round is her lowest since a 62 at the 2018 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.

“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, who went bogey-free and carded a total of eight birdies, the most she’s made in a singular round in 2021. “You have to get off to a good start here. This is more of a sprint than a marathon, so super happy.”

Kirk is playing in her 15th Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, one of few to participate in every edition of the tournament since its inception. This week is her 20th event of 2021, where her season-best result was a tie for 25th at the Pure Silk Championship. After a hole-in-one at last week’s Cambia Portland Classic, the T26 result provided a much-needed “confidence boost” as she prepared for the three-day event.

“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.”

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