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Amanda Blumenherst leads at Kia Classic, with Michelle Wie two shots behind

Wie, looking for her first professional win in the United States, shoots a five-under 68 at Industry Hills. Sandra Gal is in second place.

March 24, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Amanda Blumenherst watches her approach shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the Kia Classic at the Industry Hills Golf Club on Thursday.
Amanda Blumenherst watches her approach shot on the 12th hole during the… (Scott Halleran / Getty Images )

Michelle Wie's voice had no emotion as she described her birdie putts, seven of them, during the first round of the LPGA's Kia Classic at the Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms on Thursday.

Fifteen feet, 12 feet, three feet, whatever it was, Wie made those putts on greens that were made bumpy from the rain. And two of them came on the last three holes as the light disappeared on the gloomy afternoon.

They helped put Wie in third place with a five-under-par round of 68, two shots behind 24-year-old Amanda Blumenherst, a third-year pro from Scottsdale, Ariz., who is a Duke graduate and who shot a seven-under 66.

Kia Classic leaderboard

Blumenherst, who teed off in the second group, at 7:25 a.m., is a stroke ahead of Germany's Sandra Gal. There was a group of six players tied for fourth when the round was suspended at 7:30 p.m. One golfer, Dori Carter, decided to wait until Friday morning to strike a three-foot par putt. Carter, who is three over, will hit that stroke at 7:15 Friday morning.

Wie's two LPGA Tour victories came in Mexico and Canada. Winning for the first time in the United States, she said, would be special. "It's still day one, so there's a lot of golf to be played," she said. "So I'm just going to go out there and think about each shot."

Even before Wie teed off at 12:10 she had noticed the score Blumenherst had posted.

Blumenherst, who wished she could get a ticket for Thursday's Duke-Arizona Sweet 16 game in Anaheim, birdied her final four holes after knocking down a nine-foot putt to save par on the 13th hole.

"That just kind of clicked things and I started making some really good putts in a row," she said.

Even though Blumenherst finished her round nearly seven hours before some others, she felt confident in her score. "I was very excited about it," she said. "I think it's going to be low."

Gal also had a super stretch of golf — four consecutive birdies beginning on the fifth hole, which was on the back nine for Gal, who had started on the 10th hole.

Blumenherst, the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur champion, said she felt the course played longer than its listed distance of 6,707 yards.

Because of the rain this week, she said, "The fairways are extremely soft right now. So are the greens. It's playing a lot longer than it says on the card, which actually suits me because I'm one of the longer ball strikers out there. The longer the better."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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