Australian golfer Katherine Hull-Kirk hasn’t exactly had a banner season in her 10th year on the LPGA Tour, earning just $67,788 and missing nine of 16 cuts prior to this week.
But things got better quickly with one shot Friday morning during the second round of the Marathon Classic.
Coming off a 2-over 73 on Thursday, Hull-Kirk began play on the 10th tee. She perked up with a birdie on her fourth hole (No. 13), then teed off on the 172-yard, par-3 14th hole with a 5-iron.
That shot dropped into the cup for a hole-in-one, and suddenly the eagle had her at 1-under for the tournament and feeling a whole lot better about her prospects.
“I took a little bit off it, and it landed about eight yards short of the hole,” Hull-Kirk said of her ace. “It took one or two bounces and just rolled in. We were kind of debating whether it went in or not. Then we heard a two guys near the green kind of cheer, and that was good enough for me. It was exciting.”
The excitement increased late in the round. As it turned out, Kia had offered a 2014 Cadenza automobile, valued at around $30,000, as the prize for aces at No. 14 this week.
“I’m super excited now,” Hull-Kirk said. “I didn’t know that [car] that was on the line. One of the LPGA guys on the staff came up to me with a couple holes to go [on No. 7] and said, ‘Hey, congrats on the car.’ I said, ‘What? We won one?’
“I will be very delighted to drive it. Me and my husband were actually debating buying a car, because we’ve been just splitting his. So I’ll have my own now.”
Hull-Kirk added birdies at Nos. 3 and 4 before closing with her only bogey of the round on her final hole.
The 4-under 67 took her to 2-under for the tournament, and she made the cut.
“My year has been sloppy,” she said. “I switched coaches back in March, and I’ve kind of struggled with getting confidence in what I’ve been working on. Hopefully this will be the turning point.”
Hull has career earnings of more than $3.4 million since joining the tour after graduating from Pepperdine University in 2003, the same year she was named NCAA player of the year.
THAT’S NO BULL: Beatriz Recari hails from Pamplona, Spain, so she has of course been to the famed running of the bulls on numerous occasions. But she is quick to point out that the Festival of San Fermin is much more than that single, and often gory, event.
“It’s a very religious festival for the locals,” she said. “It’s a party festival and a happy festival … a lot of singing and good food. There is a lot of tradition. It’s a whole experience and ambiance, like Christmas. Everybody is happy for that week.”
Recari’s only LPGA Tour win came in 2010, but she is one of the most consistent players on tour. In fact, when she missed the cut recently at the U.S. Women’s Open, it snapped a streak of 46 straight tournaments in which she had qualified for all four rounds.
She was one of just three players, joining Jiyai Shin and Karrie Webb, who never missed a cut during the 2012 season.
Recari’s 65 during Friday’s second round included an eagle at the par-4 15th hole when she knocked in her 8-iron approach shot from 152 yards.
“I saw it land, and I saw it was the right distance with the amount of wind that was helping [it],” she said. “I knew it was going to be a good shot. I didn’t know it was going to go in.”
AMATEUR KO-PING WELL: Make no mistake, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, who turned 16 in April, is an amateur in name only. Her performance in the Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows is just the latest testament.
After opening with a 2-under 69 on Thursday, Ko sank an eight-foot birdie putt on her final hole (No. 9) on Friday to close out a second-round 67 to move to 6-under, two shots off the lead, midway through the tourney.
Ko, bothered by a cold the first two rounds, is playing in her 18th professional events and has made the cut in all 18.
“I made some nice short putts and I only made one bogey, so it was good,” Ko said of her round. “I don’t really think about [being an amateur]. I’m more conscious about what I’m doing [on course].
“All I can do is play my best at the tournament and see how it goes. I had a really good finish today. I made birdies on the last two holes, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep rolling the putts like I did today.
A relaxed Ko has a nothing-to-lose attitude.
“It’s really good experience playing professional tournaments as an amateur,” she said. “There’s not as much pressure. If I miss a cut it really doesn’t matter. Nothing’s really on the line.”
POWERS OUT: Former Bowling Green High School and Michigan State University player Caroline Powers missed the cut in her first appearance at the Marathon Classic, following her 3-over-par 74 from Thursday with a 10-over 81 on Friday.
Powers, the daughter of former Bowling Green State University hockey coach Buddy Powers, started her second round poorly and was unable to offset that early damage.
Her major undoing was a six-hole stretch that saw her mix in one of her two birdies (on hole No. 8) among two bogeys and three double-bogeys between Nos. 5 and 10.
She later added another bogey and double-bogey on her back nine.
“It’s tough when you want to do well, but it didn’t happen for me this week,” Powers said. “Things happen. You just have to clear your mind. But that was hard to do today.”
Powers said it was a learning experience early in her pro career.
“Even if you make some big numbers,” she said, “there are still birdies out there. You have to keep pressing forward.”
2012 CHAMP IN HUNT: So Yeon Ryu, who won the Farr Classic at Highland Meadows last year, remains in the thick of the chase in her bid to repeat as champion here in the newly named Marathon Classic.
Ryu followed her 3-under, first-round 68 from Thursday with a 2-under 69 on Friday, and she’s tied for eighth place at 5-under, three shots back, at the tournament’s midway point.
Ryu offset bogeys on the seventh and ninth holes with birdies at 2, 3, 10, and 15 to stay in the hunt.
“Unfortunately my putting wasn’t really great so I missed a couple birdie putts,” Ryu said.
Is there pressure in defending?
“Absolutely,” Ryu said. “[There’s] always a little bit of pressure on my shoulder, especially if I’m playing as defending champion. I just want to keep focus on my ball and not think about other people’s opinion, or the other talking.”
NOT LOOKING AHEAD: Inbee Park, the LPGA’s top-ranked player, has captured three of the Tour’s major championship’s this year, and has a chance to sweep all five.
The next major follows the Marathon Classic on the LPGA schedule — the RICOH Women’s British Open at St. Andrews, Scotland (Aug. 1-4) — after an open week.
Park’s focus this week is firmly on Highland Meadows, where she is tied for fifth place at 6-under at the tourney’s midway point. She shot a 2-under 69 Friday, following a 67 on Thursday.
“I don’t really think about St. Andrews when I’m playing this tournament,” Park said. “I’m just trying to tune my game up a little bit so I’m ready for going to the British [Open].”
The final major of the year is the Evian Championship in France in September. That event was just added as the LPGA’s fifth major this year. Previously, there were only four majors, and no LPGA player had ever won all four in the same calendar year.
— Dave Hackenberg contributed to this report.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6461, or on Twitter@JungaBlade.