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Park and Icher keep elite pack at bay

KARINE Icher of France birdied her final hole to tie Park Hee-young of South Korea at 8-under 64 for the first-round lead at the Corning Classic on Thursday.

Park had eight one-putt birdies, only one from more than 10 feet, and matched her career low round on the forgiving Corning Country Club course with a 6-footer at No. 18.

Tied just one shot back were Minea Blomqvist of Finland, Sandra Gal of Germany, and South Koreans Sarah Lee, Soo-Yun Kang, and Hee-Won Han as nearly half of the extended field of 147 that started broke par on a sun-splashed day.

Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Nicole Castrale, Sarah Kemp of Australia, and Jeong Ji-min and Choi Na-yeon of South Korea were at 6 under.

The leaders also matched the low first round in Corning Classic history shared by Nancy Ramsbottom (1994), Karen Stupples (2003), and Charlotta Sorenstam (2007).

Park was in uncharted territory and chose not to look at the leaderboard, maybe because all but two of the top 30 money leaders on tour were playing the 31st and final edition of the event.

"This is my first time leading the first round," said Park, who tied for sixth at last week's Sybase Classic. "So tomorrow I will do the same, keep working with my caddie, just focus the mind, and just play. I have to stay aggressive."

Park excelled with her short game and needed only 22 putts on the 15 greens she reached in regulation.

"The greens were very true," said Park, who battled allergies on the back nine and credited her caddie with her low score.

Icher forged the tie by making a short birdie putt on her final hole, No. 18. "I'm going to try to keep my game where it is," said Icher, who has led at Corning before, only to falter on the weekend. "I have more experience, so it helps. I'm going to try to not make the same mistakes."


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