Epson Tour winner Gina Kim had a rollercoaster round on Thursday at the Maybank Championship, carding a 7-under 65 that saw her make three bogeys, eight birdies and an eagle at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club to sit in a tie for third in Malaysia. Starting the day on the par-5 10th hole, the 23-year-old grabbed a birdie early but gave it back after making bogey on No. 12. Kim then got back in the red with an eagle on the short, drivable par-4 14th hole, one of four eagles made on that hole in round one, and went bogey-birdie on 15 and 16 before parring 17 and 18 to turn in 34.
The Duke University alum kicked things into high gear on the front nine, picking up back-to-back birdies on holes 1 and 2 before dropping a shot on the par-5 3rd hole to move back to 3-under. She parred No. 4 and then rattled off three straight birdies on 5, 6 and 7, now sitting at 6-under with two holes to play. Kim made one last birdie on No. 9 to post a 65, her second-lowest round on the LPGA Tour since becoming a member last season.
It's the second time this season that the 2022 Epson Tour graduate has shot a round of 65 or better, with the last time being at the Portland Classic when Kim opened her week with an 8-under 64, her career-low round on the LPGA Tour. The 65 is also her first round in the 60s since day two of the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G last month and is just her 10th round in the 60s of the 2023 season. Kim was pleased with her Thursday effort in Malaysia, one that saw her lead the field in birdies or better, and she’ll look to continue to build off the momentum she generated in round one over the course of the next three days at the Maybank Championship.
“I think you definitely need to have some good ball striking and then have some good putting. I would say those are the two strongest points today, just being able to place the ball well and putting myself in positions to make birdies and capitalizing on that,” said Kim, who hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in the first round. “I had a chip-in eagle today on No. 14. I was in the rough behind the green and there was a slope going down to the hole, and then another one after that.
“I'm like, shoot, let's just try to get this to birdie distance and give myself a chance, and we'll go from there. It just kept trickling and eventually went into the hole. After that, I think I was able to play a little more freely and attack the pins like I wanted to.”
This is Kim’s 21st event of the 2023 LPGA Tour season, and in her 20 previous starts, she has missed 11 cuts and earned one top-five finish, tying for third at the Portland Classic in August, which is her career-best finish on the LPGA Tour. She currently finds herself on the bubble for maintaining status next season, sitting at 94th in the Race to the CME Globe point standings, six shots inside the top-100 cutoff needed to have full playing privileges in 2024.
Kim will need a solid finish at the Maybank Championship as well as in her next two scheduled starts at the TOTO Japan Classic and at The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican if she wants to avoid a trip to LPGA Q-Series, and she’s off to a good start so far this week in Malaysia, form she’ll need to maintain with 54 holes to go at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
“This course is in really, really good condition. Huge shoutout to the superintendent and his crew for putting this together. I love the golf course,” Kim said. “I've had good vibes ever since I landed in Malaysia. Today was a good start, so I'm feeling good about the rest of the week.”