Golf: Koalas get lucky as Ewart Shadoff leads Australian Open

England's Jodi Ewart Shadoff in action during day one of the Women's Australian Open golf tournament at The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide, Australia, on Feb 13, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ADELAIDE (AFP) - Jodi Ewart Shadoff made a lot of koalas happy by sinking seven birdies to lead the LPGA Australian Open with defending champion Nelly Korda three shots adrift after Thursday's (Feb 13) first round.

The Englishwoman fired a blemish-free 66 around the Royal Adelaide Golf Club, having pledged to donate A$100 (S$93.70) for every birdie to a koala rescue charity with her sponsor matching the sum.

Ewart Shadoff has one-stroke lead ahead of South Koreans Lee Jeong-eun and Park In-bee with three Americans - Marina Alex, Jillian Hollis and Amy Olson - a shot further back.

Korda, the daughter of former Australian Open Grand Slam tennis champion Petr, is lurking in a pack of 10 after a four-under 69.

Ewart Shadoff benefited from being back in the clubhouse before breezy conditions kicked in and with seven birdies in the bag already, that's A$1,400 to help the furry marsupials.

"I mean again, really solid, really happy to make seven birdies. I'm donating to the Adelaide Koala Rescue this week for birdies, so it's nice to make a tonne today," she said.

Told she would be making a lot of koalas happy, she replied: "Yes, I hope so."

Ewart Shadoff's best showing on the LPGA Tour was her second place at the 2017 British Open. She said: "I feel ready," when asked of she could grab her maiden victory.

She will be keeping a close watch on world No. 3 Korda, who last year added to an amazing family tradition of winning top titles in Australia.

In holding off South Korean Ko Jin-young, she joined her father, sister and brother in being crowned an Open champion on Australian soil.

Dad Petr got the ball rolling by winning the Australian Open in 1998, while her sister Jessica won the Australian Open golf in 2012. Her brother Sebastian then took out the Australian Open tennis boys' title in 2018.

"I had a solid day out there," said Korda, who won two LPGA events last year to race up the rankings.

"I drove the ball really well. Kind of didn't take advantage of all my opportunities, but it's just the first day so hopefully I can just build from here on."

Park Hee-young, who won the LPGA's Vic Open last weekend after a four-hole play-off, had a horror start with a double bogey and two bogeys blotting her card until birdies at the last four holes rescued her card, leaving her seven off the pace.

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