World No. 1 Lydia Ko has shot a six under par 66 to lead round one of the stroke play qualifying at the 2012 US Women's Amateur Championship at The Country Club in Cleveland, Ohio.
The 15-year-old from the Gulf Harbour Country Club made six birdies and no bogeys on the 5954m, par-72 William Flynn-designed layout.
She leads Californian Alison Lee and Korean Hyo-Joo Kim by two shots heading into the second and final round of qualifying for the match play stages of the event.
Ko was co-medalist at the 2011 US Women's Amateur and low amateur at last month's US Women's Open and is among the more well-known players in the field.
Starting play on the inward nine, Ko hit a seven iron to within 30cm of the hole on the par 3 11th. On the 12th, she hit a wedge from the rough to within 30cm and made both putts for birdies.
"Two tap-in birdies were nice," Ko said. "I didn't have to think about the line."
After a birdie from nine 3m on the 13th, her tee shot at the 17th landed in a divot some 82m from the green.
A wedge shot out of the divot left her with a 3m putt for birdie, which she made. Turning to the outward nine, Ko narrowly missed a 2m eagle putt on the second hole, but settled for a birdie. At the seventh, she made her final birdie of the day on a putt of nearly 9m.
Ko's 66 is the second-lowest qualifying score recorded in this event. She also shot a 66 in qualifying last year at Rhode Island Country Club, where she fell in the second round of match play to 2010 USA Curtis Cup participant Stephanie Kono.
Earlier this year, at the age of 14, she became the youngest person to win a professional golf tournament when she captured the New South Wales Open on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf tour. With the win she eclipsed Ryo Ishikawa, who was 15 when he won a professional tournament in Japan.
Meanwhile Lee was pleased with her 68. A few weeks ago she suffered a heart-breaking 1-down loss in the US Girls' Junior 36-hole match-play final to Australia's Minjee Lee after she was 3 up with six holes to play.
"I've been playing really well," Lee said. "I've been doing my best not to grind. Just rest, keep my energy up. I played really freely today."
Ko has the chance tomorrow to defend her co-medalist title at the US Amateur as she vies to become the first New Zealand golfer to win the event.