GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. – For a change, the Bay Course at Seaview won a round at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Third-ranked Jiyai Shin of South Korea shot a 5-under 66 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead over playing partner Sandra Gal of Germany after the wind-whipped opening round on the course in the shadow of Atlantic City.
Catriona Matthew of Scotland was two shots back, and fourth-ranked ranked Cristie Kerr, No. 6 I.K. Kim, Karen Stupples, Vicky Hurst and Lindsey Wright opened with 69s.
Karrie Webb was in a trio at 70. Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer had 72s.
The surprise of the day was the conditions at the Bay Course at Seaview. For years, conditions have been calm at the links-type course in the shadow of Atlantic City, and there were birdies galore.
Gusts of 20 mph or more blew off the bay and only 13 players broke par (71) on a layout toughened by longer grass, quicker greens and the addition of knee-high fescue for those who missed the fairways. Only eight finished in the 60s.
“It played really tough,” Kerr said. “I started out on the back nine, and that’s probably the toughest it’s ever played in all the years I’ve played here.”
Six of the top eight players teed off in the afternoon, including the top three. Kerr and Wright were the only ones to play in the morning.
A year ago, 60 players broke par in the first round, including 43 in the 60s. Ai Miyazato won the 54-hole event at 16 under.
Miyazato was in a group at 73 on Friday along with top-ranked Yani Tseng.
Shin and Gal seem to do well together. They were paired for the final two rounds of the Kia event in the Los Angeles area earlier this year with Gal winning her first LPGA event, and Shin coming in second.
They were very good again Friday. Shin had six birdies and a bogey, while Gal had five birdies and a bogey. Both had birdies at the Nos. 2, 10 and 18.
“I’ve been practicing a lot of the putting this week,” said Shin, who blamed an inconsistent season on a balky putter. “Today my putting was great, good work, my shot also, and I didn’t miss any fairways.”
Gal said she wasn’t bothered by the wind, noting she played in similar conditions in the pro-am earlier in the week.
“It’s part of the golf course,” she said. “Wind, no wind, you just have to take it as it is.”
Gal has been one of the biggest surprises on the women’s tour this year. The 26-year-old has played in five events and posted three Top 10 finishes.
Even she doesn’t know what has led to her success.
“If I would know I would tell you,” she said. “You know what, I’m just having a good time out there. And it’s just fun playing with good other players and in front of a lot of crowds and just trying to entertain them, really.”
For most of the players in the field, the first round wasn’t enjoyable, particularly the amount of time they spent on the course. Most players needed more than 5 1/2 hours to complete play.
Kerr said her group, which included Grace Park (78) and Amanda Blumenherst (77), stopped 10 times to search for balls in the tall fescue.
Park hit two balls out of bounds and Blumenherst was in the whispy grass a couple of times.
Kerr even joked on the 14th hole hole, the trio got a surprise searching for a lost ball.
“That hole we found 15 golf balls in there,” said Kerr, who finished second to Suzann Pettersen in the Sybase Match Play Championship last month. “But none of them were our group’s. So, you know, I think the Pro-Am guys lost a few out there.”
Matthew didn’t mind the conditions, saying it reminded her of golf back home. She had five birdies and two bogeys.
What bothered her was the length of the round.
“I mean, it was pathetic, the pace of play,” Matthew said. “I don’t know if it was just too many people in the field to get around. But, yeah, I don’t know what we can do about that.”
The 54-hole tournament is schedule to end on Sunday.