Unequipped for the ever-changing Minnesota weather but prepared nonetheless for long, wet Hazeltine National Golf Club, Australian Hannah Green is the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship’s first-round leader by a shot after Thursday’s scrambling 4-under-par 68.
The second-year LPGA Tour player didn’t make a bogey during an afternoon round that got the brunt of Thursday’s rain, wind and what Green considered “very cold,” all without the proper layering.
“I don’t own a pair of wet-weather pants,” said Green, who grew up in sunny, temperate Perth on Australia’s far West Coast.
Her boyfriend, Asian and Australian tour player Jarryd Felton, went and fetched a jacket on a day she wore shorts, and a Hazeltine staff member shuttled dry towels so she could grip her clubs. The round started with blustery wind, proceeded in a steady rain that dissipated after five holes and ended when the wind picked up again.
Green, 22, leads Republic of Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim and England’s Mel Reid by a shot and six players — including defending champion Sung Hyun Park — by two. Sixteen golfers in the 156-player field that represents 31 countries shot under par.
Green called herself and her caddie unprepared for a Minnesota summer’s day that started warm and cloudy and ended after the temperature dropped and four-tenths of an inch of rain fell.
“I don’t know why I don’t,” Green said about not owning rain pants. “I think I’m going to have to invest in some. Even if I own some, I don’t really like wearing them because they’re really baggy and make a lot of noise.”
Cold and wet, Green persevered, getting up and down in two shots on all nine greens she missed in regulation. She birdied four holes and started her round by saving par with a 15-foot putt, and again with sizable putts at her third and fourth holes.
“I don’t think I ever had a tap-in putt for par when I missed the green,” she said. “Nearly every hole was a six-footer. I made them all.”
She was cheered on by two young Australians wrapped in their country’s colors and one of them wearing a tutu. They’re winners of the same Karrie Webb Scholarship that she received in 2015. As Green did, the pair received a $10,000 scholarship and a week’s stay with fellow Australian Webb at this major championship.
“I think I can flaunt it as much as they can, but I’ll leave that to them,” Green said.
A seven-time major winner, Webb was finishing up her 79 Thursday about the same time Green was taking sole possession of the lead by holing a greenside bunker shot for her final birdie at No. 7, her 16th hole.
Green grew up 1,700 miles from Australian’s great sandbelt courses such as Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath, but she still looked right at home in the sand on that shot.
“I guess I just had a lot of luck today, getting good bounces,” Green said. “That was one of them.”
She got just enough good bounces to hold off Kim and Reid for the day. Kim won the 2014 Evian Championship as a 19-year-old rookie and was expected to win more majors after such a splash. She lost a 2018 U.S. Women’s Open playoff to Ariya Jutanugarn, who is one of those six players two shots back.
Reid is a 31-year-old veteran who has won five times on the European tour. She joined the LPGA Tour in 2017.
“I might be a resident of Florida, but I’m still very much British,” she said after she survived the elements. “This is kind of standard day for us, this weather. I said to my caddie, this is almost an advantage for us.”
On Tuesday, two-time major winner Stacy Lewis called Hazeltine National “big,” “intimidating” and “awesome” all in the same breath.
On Thursday, it played every bit of the 6,831 yards as PGA of America chief competition officer’s Kerry Haigh set it up. It did so both because of the rain that softened it and the decision to play particularly the par 5s fully, presumably made with a weather forecast that called for scattered thunderstorms later in the day.
Contestants with morning tee times didn’t get the wind and rain until later in their rounds. But Green, Reid and China’s Xiyu Lin made moves late in the day when the wind subsided and the greens held approach shots.
Either way, Hazeltine played as lengthy as any LPGA major in recent memory.
“The holes are just really long,” Kim said.