MIAMI: Japan’s Mamiko Higa fired the lowest ever debut round at the US Women’s Open on Thursday, carding a six-under-par 65 to open up an one-shot lead at the Country Club of Charleston.
The 25-year-old from Okinawa, playing in the tournament for the first time, showed no signs of stage fright on her way to a bogey-free total.
Higa launched a superb first round with a run of three consecutive birdies on the third, fourth and fifth holes before a further birdie at the ninth took her to four under at the turn.
Two more birdies on the back nine left her at six under, one shot clear of German rookie Esther Henseleit, another US Women’s Open debutant, and American amateur Gina Kim, who both posted five-under-par 66s.
Higa said she had adjusted to the hot, humid conditions in South Carolina by limiting her practice.
Higa’s fellow debutant Henseleit was similarly flawless in her maiden US Women’s Open round, sinking five birdies and 13 pars en route to her bogey-free 66.
It marked a fairytale debut for Henseleit, who feared her chances of playing in the tournament were over after she lost a playoff in qualifiers in London. She was eventually handed a slot as one of the first alternates.
Henseleit found herself sharing second with US amateur player Kim, who had a wild round which included six birdies, an eagle and three bogeys.
The 19-year-old from New Mexico’s highlight was a brilliant eagle on the 391-yard par four eighth.
Henseleit and Kim were one shot ahead of France’s Celine Boutier, who was in fourth after a four-under-par 67.
South Korea’s Kim Sei-young and Spain’s Azahara Munoz shared fifth after posting 68s, while a group of seven players were two under on 69.