New Zealand teen Lydia Ko took a share of the lead in her first start as a US LPGA Tour member, matching Meena Lee with a 5-under 68 in the season-opening Bahamas LPGA Classic on Thursday.
The 16-year-old Ko turned pro late last year. She won the Canadian Women’s Open in the past two years as an amateur and closed last season with a victory in a non-tour event in Taiwan in her second pro start.
Ranked No. 4 in the world, she had six birdies and a bogey on Atlantis Resort’s Ocean Club course.
Lee, from South Korea, eagled the par-4 13th and had four birdies and a bogey.
Third-ranked Stacy Lewis was a stroke back at 69 along with Taiwan’s Candie Kung, Jessica Korda, Brittany Lang, Mirim Lee, Austin Ernst, Danah Bordner, Amelia Lewis and PK Kongkraphan.
Lewis played alongside Ko.
“When she gets some confidence in herself, the rest of this tour better watch out,” Lewis said. “When I saw we were paired together, I was pretty happy. She is just a really likable kid.”
Lewis had five birdies and a bogey.
Ko recently signed an equipment deal with Callaway, changed her swing coach and hired a new caddie.
“Over the last month hearing the word change, it could pretty much be my middle name,” Ko said.
Jaye Marie Green had a 71. The 19-year-old Green won the US LPGA qualifying tournament by 10 strokes last month, finishing the 90-hole event at a record 29 under.
Michelle Wie shot 72.
Defending champion Ilhee Lee opened with a 74.