(Reuters) - Juli Inkster, inspired by a pre-tournament dinner with former U.S. President George W. Bush, surged into a three-way tie for the lead after the opening round of the North Texas Shootout on Thursday.
The 54-year-old compiled six birdies to join fellow Americans Cristie Kerr and Sydnee Michaels at five-under-par 66 at the Las Colinas Country Club in Irving.
It was a dismal day for world number one Lydia Ko, however. The 18-year-old stumbled to a four-over 75 and is in danger of missing an LPGA cut for the first time.
Ko, who last Sunday posted her seventh LPGA victory, was cruising along at two-under until she dropped six shots in a three-hole stretch, with a triple bogey — where she lost a ball in a tree — followed by a double and then a bogey.
The Kiwi will donate any prize money accrued this week to the Nepal earthquake relief fund, but will need a strong second round simply to make the cut.
Inkster, who won the first of her 31 LPGA titles almost 14 years before Ko was born, ran into a bit of form with a tie for 15th last week, and stepped it up a gear on Thursday.
Inkster will captain the U.S. Solheim Cup team that will play Europe in September, and she did some bonding by taking several of her likely team members to dinner with the former U.S. president earlier in the week.
“It was probably one of the top three things I ever did, just listening to him, the stories and how passionate he is about the United States, the respect he has for the people over there fighting for freedom and stuff like that,” Inkster told reporters.
“I just had a great time, and everybody got on that bus when we were going home, I could see it in their eyes that they also felt that it was a really special occasion, something that you maybe only get to do once in your lifetime.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford