ina Harigae wasn’t long ago playing on the Cactus Tour in Arizona, attempting to make enough money to pay her expenses during a global pandemic. After 18 months, she’s in the running for a $1.5 million prize at the CME Group Tour Championship.
“I’d definitely purchase a mansion,” she remarked, “as well as a bunch of Jordan shoes.”
Harigae was one shot behind 2019 U.S. Women’s Open winner Jeongeun Lee6 after a dazzling, bogey-free 65 at Tiburon Golf Club, highlighted by a chip-in for eagle at the par-5 17th. In response to a damp forecast, Round 1 of the CME was set up for scoring. On a tranquil day, players lit up the board with favorite lies.
While Harigae had a legendary junior career in California and beyond, she mostly worked in the shadows as a pro until last August, when she shared the lead going into the weekend at the AIG Women’s British Open at Carnoustie and was named a captain’s pick for Team USA in the 2021 Solheim Cup by Pat Hurst. The week in Inverness was the best experience of her life, according to the 32-year-old Solheim rookie.
“I think that gave me a lot of confidence to be able to pull off the strokes that I did during my matches and make some clutch putts,” Harigae said.
“It’s almost as if if I can do that in that kind of environment, I can do it anyplace on any course in any tournament.”
In terms of Jordans, Harigae owns only six pairs, but her fiancé and caddie, Travis Kreiter, owns 30. Their collection, as well as their golf equipment, is kept in the couple’s upstairs loft.
“It’s often difficult for me to pull the trigger when I see a really fantastic pair,” she explained, “but when I can’t stop thinking about a pair, that’s when I’ll definitely acquire one.”
Harigae claims that she has only spent a maximum of $250 on a single pair thus far, but that if the remainder of the week goes as planned, she may waste even more.
Jennifer Kupcho struggled to a 7-over 77 in the final group at the Pelican Women’s Championship on Sunday with fellow American Solheim Cup teammates Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson, but she, too, has great debut Solheim Cup vibes.
Kupcho, who went 2-1-1 at Inverness, stated, “It was definitely my best ball-striking week I’ve ever had.” “That gave me a lot of confidence.”
Early in Naples, 2021 Solheim Cup competitors are strewn across the board, with Celine Boutier of France joining Kupcho and Harigae at 7 under, and Leona Maguire, Georgia Hall, and Megan Khang at 5 under.
Boutier, who followed up her success at the Lacoste Ladies Open with her second LPGA title at the ShopRite in October, rolled out of Europe’s victorious Solheim moment. She claims that the biennial event has given her an extra dose of confidence in her ability to manage high-pressure circumstances.
“I just feel like my personality isn’t very confident in general,” she explained, “so I constantly have that doubt in my mind that I have to prove myself over and over.”
Hall’s round was boosted by a 50-foot eagle putt on the sixth hole after reaching the par 5 in two with a 3-wood.
“It’s definitely some of the greatest greens I’ve seen in the last four or five years,” she remarked.
While Kupcho played her way out of contention at the Pelican on Sunday, her playing partners, Korda and Thompson, faced Lydia Ko and Sei Young Kim in a sudden-death playoff. Korda won the title in the end, and all four players continued their great form into Round 1 of the CME.
At 7 under par, Kim joined the foursome, while World No. 1 Korda fired a 66. Thompson shot a 67 at CME to rebound off a heartbreaking streak of short misses down the line at Pelican. Ko, who is on the verge of winning the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average on the tour, shot a 69.