Queensland native Katherine Kirk has vowed to keep the pedal to the floor after opening with a blistering round of 8-under par 63 to earn a share of the lead at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Playing in the event for the 15th time, Kirk began on the back nine and peeled off four birdies, unlucky not to make it five when she three-putted the par-5 18th for par.
The 39-year-old picked up shots at the first, third and fifth holes, made a clutch par save at the par-3 sixth to remain bogey-free and then recovered from a poor tee shot to make birdie at the par-5 seventh and reach 8-under.
Kirk narrowly missed an opportunity to move to 9-under at the eighth hole but after a par at her final hole finished tied at the top with Korean pair A Lim Kim and Eun-Hee Ji.
Twelve months ago Kirk opened with a 6-under 65 on her way to a tie for seventh and knows that she will need to remain aggressive if she hopes to leave Pinnacle Golf Club on Sunday with a fourth LPGA Tour title.
“I got off to a good start and this is the kind of golf course where you just have to keep the pedal down,” said Kirk after matching her low round of the year in the second round of the Honda LPGA in Thailand.
“I was fortunately able to do that and rattled in four birdies on each side.
“You’ve got to get off to a good start here. This is more of a sprint than a marathon, so super happy.”
Although there are low rounds littered throughout Kirk’s season to date – she shot 7-under 63 in Round 2 of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in July – her best result is a tie for 25th at the Pure Silk Championship.
She had an ace in the second round of last week’s Cambia Portland Classic and tried to carry those good vibes into an event where she has such a strong history.
“Lots of good stuff happened last week. I needed a little bit of a confidence boost,” said Kirk, whose last LPGA Tour win came four years ago at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
“It’s been a bit of a grind this year. I’ve 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. I love this golf course, so good memories and good vibes and it was just a matter of going out there and having some fun.”
Minjee Lee remains in the hunt after an opening round of 4-under 67 and Sarah Kemp made a positive start with a round of 2-under 69.
Sarah Jane Smith (70) and Su Oh (72) will need low scores on Saturday to advance to the final round.