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Japanese teen takes 1st round lead at LPGA in S. Korea; Park Sung-hyun in hunt

All Headlines 16:53 October 11, 2018

By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, Oct. 11 (Yonhap) -- Japanese teenage sensation Nasa Hataoka took the first round lead at an LPGA tournament in South Korea on Thursday, with world No. 1 Park Sung-hyun lurking.

Hataoka carded a seven-under 65 to start the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club's Ocean Course in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Thursday. The 19-year-old, who already has a victory this season, had eight birdies against just one bogey in blustery wind on the 6,316-yard layout.

Hataoka shrugged off the tough elements as part of the game.

Nasa Hataoka of Japan tees off at the seventh hole during the first round of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club's Ocean Course in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Oct. 11, 2018, in the photo courtesy of the tournament organizers. (Yonhap)

"As a professional, we need to play solidly under any condition," she said through an interpreter. "I nailed a lot of long putts today and read the greens really well."

Including her win at Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in June, Hataoka has eight top-10 finishes in 20 starts this year. She attributed her strong season to steady ball-striking and much-improved putting.

Park, seeking her first win here after finishing runner-up in 2017, was cruising at five-under through 16 holes, before a double bogey at the par-three 17th. She bounced back with a birdie at the 18th to finish her round at four-under 68, tied in fourth place with Minjee Lee of Australia.

Park caught a break at the 18th, a 500-yard par-five. She pulled her drive way left, but the ball caromed off the cart path and came back to the fairway.

"I didn't see where the ball landed at first, but I heard fans cheer," Park said. "As I started walking down the fairway, I spotted the ball well down the fairway. My caddie and I were pretty happy. We thought the ball went maybe 400 yards."

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea watches her second shot at the ninth hole during the first round of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club's Ocean Course in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Oct. 11, 2018. (Yonhap)

Among other notables, defending champion Ko Jin-young shot a 71 after two birdies and a bogey.

Charley Hull of England and Danielle Kang of the United States are tied for second place, two strokes behind Hataoka.

In the field of 78, 20 players went under par. Yealimi Noh, a Korean-American amateur playing in her second professional event, shot an adventurous 76 with four birdies, six bogeys and one double bogey.

Jang Ha-na, four-time LPGA winner who rescinded her membership to play on the home tour, tied Kim Ji-hyun as the top Korea LPGA (KLPGA) players at 69.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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