CLE ELUM, Wash. -- Sophomore Kyung Kim caught fire on the back 9 with five birdies en route to a 6-under 66 and helped No. 1 Southern California, the defending NCAA champion, to the early lead during the first wave of NCAA West Region first round play at the Tumble Creek Club at Suncadia Resort on Thursday.
NCAA West, Central and East regionals, each made up of 24 teams, conducted May 8-10, will determine the championship final field. The top eight teams plus two individuals from each field will advance to the championship round, scheduled for May 20-23 at the Tulsa (Okla.) C.C.
The Trojans, who already have a season-record eight wins this season, are seeking their NCAA-best 10th regional win and fifth in a row.
Kim's fantastic first round was her ninth round in the 60s this year, the second-most ever at USC and one off of sophomore Annie Park's school-record 10 this season. It is her 15th of her career, which ties Park for second behind senior Sophia Popov's 21.
Kim opened her first round with birdies on 1 and 2 and finished the front 9 at 1-under. She was still 1-under before three straight birdies on 13, 14 and 15 and then closed with two more on 17 and 18 as she vies for her third win this season and sixth top 10 finish.
Park opened with a 1-under 71. She opened at 2-over through 7, but birdied 8 for a 1-over front 9 and birdied 12 and 16 for a 2-under back 9. She is after her ninth top 11 finish in a row.
Junior Doris Chen turned in an even 72 as she seeks her seventh top 13 finish this season. She had three birdies on a 1-under front 9 and birdied 18 to finish out a 1-over back 9.
Senior Sophia Popov finished at 3-over 75 while freshman Karen Chung finished at 5-over 77. Popov got off to a slow start at 4-over through six holes, but finished her remaining 12 holes at 1-under.
Second round action is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET Friday.