On Thursday at The Royal Golf Club, Kay’s bogey-free round was the lowest in the history of the championship, bettering the six-under-par 65 effort of the reigning champion Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand in the first round in Singapore last year.
The world No.9 was also bogey-free for her opening round and finished one shot behind the leader at seven-under par 65.
Riri Sadoyama, from the host nation Japan, hit the first shot of the championship and came home in 66, tied for the third place alongside Korea’s Yae-Eun Hong.
On a difficult golf course, playing slightly easier because of the receptive greens following the overnight rain, as many as 45 players shot par or better.
It was Kay who made the most of the conditions, including a run of seven birdies in nine holes from the 13th onwards after starting at the 10th tee.
“I got off to a good start with a birdie and I guess I just kept it rolling. The putts that I needed to make, I made and I hit it close. I just played golf, that’s what I did. I’m really stoked,” said Kay, who continues her fine form having won twice in her last four starts in Australia.
“I just wanted to make more birdies. I finished with four birdies on the back nine (her front nine), and I had two early ones on and six pars to finish. I had the opportunities to have more birdies but I’m not complaining.”
Thitikul started with three birdies in her first four holes and was solid throughout as she hit all 18 greens in regulation. She had a fantastic finish with birdies on the 17th and 18th holes that elevated her to second place and gave her the same starting score as last year (Sentosa was par-71).
“Today was really good. Before I started, I thought about last year, and told myself ‘first day, I played so good. I just need to keep patient and have fun on the golf course’.
“It’s my big key… relax and sing a song. I do feel pressure but when I’m out on the golf course, I am not thinking that I need to win again or about the finish. I just go out and enjoy myself and enjoy every moment of the tournament, that’s it.”
Sadoyama, the lowest-ranked Japanese player in the field (WAGR No. 367), had missed the cut in Singapore last year and was on the bag of her best friend Yuna Nishimura when she lost the play-off to Thitikul.
“I think I was more disappointed than Nishimura when she failed to make the putt and lost. I badly wanted to do well this year, not only because I learned a lot from Nishimura and what happened last year, but also because the tournament is in Japan,” said Sadoyama.
“I was nervous to hit the opening shot but also glad to be given the honour. I am just happy that I could hit a very good tee shot.”
The Championship has an ‘Elite’ status in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). The field is 80 players from 19 countries and includes 17 ranked inside the top-100 of the WAGR. The champion will earn a spot in two of the five women’s majors – the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship. She will also receive an invite to the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has been developed by The R&A and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite women amateurs to emerge on the international stage.
The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter last year and is committed to increasing the participation of women in the sport. The WAAP is one of several key championships conducted by the governing body and a significant initiative along with the APGC to drive the popularity of women’s golf in the region.
Kabaya Ohayo Group and Rolex are the championship’s Official Scoring Partners; Evian are Official Water Supplier and Galaxy is a Patron Partner. IMG are assisting with championship staging and TV broadcast.
For more information on the championship, visit the website at randa.org/WAAP. For updates, like the championship’s Facebook page and follow @WAAPGolf on Twitter and Instagram.
Entry to the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship is free of charge.