Golf

Allen girl thrives in pleasant conditions at Kathy Whitworth Invitational

Kristen Gillman, competing at the Kathy Whitworth Invitational in 2013, is tied for the lead after shooting a first-round 70 Monday at Mira Vista Country Club.
Kristen Gillman, competing at the Kathy Whitworth Invitational in 2013, is tied for the lead after shooting a first-round 70 Monday at Mira Vista Country Club. Star-Telegram

The conditions were miserable at last year’s rainy, windy Kathy Whitworth Invitational.

So when Amber Park of Allen warmed up on the range Monday for the 2016 installment of the girls tournament at Mira Vista Country Club, the Texas A&M commit said her dad reminded her that the weather was a bit more manageable this year.

With temperatures reaching the mid-80s, Mira Vista played dry and fast as Park fired an even-par 71 — good enough for a tie for third and a one-shot deficit behind first-round co-leaders Gurleen Kaur and Kristen Gillman.

Japan’s Karen Miyamoto and Yujeong Son of Oklahoma also shot 71.

And when you get those kind of great conditions, you have to take advantage of it.

Amber Park of Allen

“What my dad said kind of reminded me that I’ve gained some distance on my driver more so than last year,” Park said. “And when you get those kind of great conditions, you have to take advantage of it.”

That is something the junior from Allen High School has been doing the past 12 months.

Improved swing changes and better scores have offered more opportunities for Park, who secured her best finish on the AJGA circuit with a runner-up finish last summer at the Jordan Spieth Invitational at the University of Texas Golf Club in Austin.

I wasn’t committed to A&M last summer, so it will be interesting when I go back as an Aggie commit this year.

Park on the Jordan Spieth Invitational at the University of Texas

Park, born in Seoul, South Korea, also finished seventh at the Nike Invitational in Oregon.

“I wasn’t committed to A&M last summer, so it will be interesting when I go back as an Aggie commit this year,” she said.

But on Monday, it was all about her strong play on the 6,400-yard course. Park rallied from a pair of back-nine bogeys (her first nine holes of the day) with birdies at Nos. 12 and 17.

She made another at No. 18 to turn in a 71 on the day.

“I was worried about my putting this morning, and I reached the green in two on 17,” Park said. “I hit a pretty good putt to get it within about nine feet, and when I made that, I got a lot of confidence out of that.”

A mix of 3- and 4-foot par-saving putts helped Park stay even throughout. She had a double bogey on the lengthy par-4 second hole, but bounced back again with birdie at No. 3.

Park shot 36 on her closing stretch of holes, the front nine.

Correction: Dallas resident Hailey Jones has not committed to any college.

  Comments