The roaring gallery may have been for a group behind hers with LPGA Tour Hall of Fame inductee Inbee Park, but Sadena Parks drew a crowd of her own to Sahalee Country Club on Thursday.
Playing in her first major in Washington state, Parks — a Bethel High School graduate and University of Washington product — was stopped a few times for hugs and autographs following her first round at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“It’s definitely a memorable moment, something that I will always remember,” Parks said. “It’s awesome to be back in your home (state), but also playing a major on a really tough golf course. It just shows that the Northwest has great courses.”
Parks, who shot a 3-over-par 74, walked straight to the driving range following her round, but met well-wishers along the way.
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One of those was Jim Ball, who coached Parks for four years at Bethel, including two Class 4A state championships in 2006 and 2008.
“Kid, that was awesome,” Ball said to Parks. “Your last eight holes, solid, solid golf.”
Parks hung her head slightly, not quite as impressed with her round — a ball in the water led to a double-bogey on the second hole, and three more bogeys were sprinkled through a five-hole stretch later — but acknowledged her appreciation.
“The second hole (a par 5), that hurt, got you in a bit of a tailspin, but you came out of it and played great,” Ball said. “I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Parks shot a birdie and seven consecutive pars on her final eight holes to end Thursday tied for 49th.
“A lot of clutch putts were made because I was a little all over the place off the tee,” Parks said. “I made some great up and downs that kept the momentum going.”
The final one came on the par-4 18th hole, where Parks chipped out of a greenside bunker and made a short putt to save par.
That’s where Edean Ihlanfeldt — the namesake for the UW’s annual invitational at Sahalee, clad in a Husky necklace — was waiting to congratulate Parks.
“She always comes out and supports when there’s a tournament locally that she can watch,” said Parks, who posted 17 top-25 finishes during her collegiate career. “Once you’re a Husky, you’re always a Husky.”
It was a warm welcome home for Parks, who lives in Arizona.
“It’s kind of cool for me to be back home and show everyone Washington is a great state to be in,” she said.
An ace and a car
Brooke Henderson got the ace, but her sister gets the car.
On her fourth hole, Henderson, the 18-year-old Canadian, hit a 7-iron off the 152-yard 13th tee, and excitedly watched the ball roll into the cup.
“The hole-in-one was awesome,” Henderson said. “I pulled my shot a little bit, caught the left apron, and it funneled right into the hole.”
Henderson is the early leader, after shooting a 4-under 67. But, perhaps more importantly, the sloping par-3 was a car hole. Meaning Brittany Henderson — Brooke’s older sister and caddie — is the new owner of a Kia K900.
“All year this year, I’ve walked up in the practice rounds and said, ‘See that car? If I get it, it’s yours,’ ” Brooke said.
She didn’t say it this week, but the honor system presumably applies.
“I’m waiting until I actually have the keys. I told her no take-backs, though,” Brittany laughed.
The ace comes about a year after Brittany’s car was totaled. Brooke reported her sister’s car was T-boned when she was on her way to do laundry.
“I don’t have (a car),” Brittany said. “So, I’m really excited.”
This was the fourth ace of Brooke’s career — the first on the LPGA tour.
Ryan Young’s résumé was impressive enough to Liz Caron, who suddenly had an open bag late last week.
Caron, an instructor at the Mill River Club in New York, called Young, a pro at Chambers Bay, last Friday, a day after her regular caddie, Dan Howard, was hospitalized following a heart attack.
Caron said Howard is doing OK.
“I think she looked me up and saw I was a director of instruction, so I had some experience with looking at the yardage books,” Young said. “My home course growing up, Mill Creek, was the same designer, so I kind of know the characteristics, of course.”
Young, who said he has played in about 10 local tournaments at Sahalee, will be on Caron’s bag for the duration of the Women’s PGA.