Celine Borge may not be one of the most recognizable names at the top of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship leaderboard but she put herself in the conversation early at Baltusrol Golf Club, carding a 2-under 69 that saw her make three birdies and one bogey in the first round to sit inside the top 10 early in Springfield, N.J. The Norwegian is a 2023 LPGA Tour rookie and Epson Tour graduate, earning membership for this season after finishing sixth in the 2022 Race for the Card. She made 17 of 21 cuts on the Epson Tour last season, earning one victory at the Tuscaloosa Toyota Classic and recording five additional top-10 finishes, two of which were top-fives.
Borge has three top 20s on the LPGA Tour so far this year, a T14 at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Superstition Mountain, a solo 18th at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei and a T17 at the Cognizant Founders Cup, which was also held in New Jersey at Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, N.J. Being near the top of the leaderboard in a major championship is enough to give even the steeliest of veterans nervous butterflies in their stomachs, but Borge is unfazed, instead doing her best to remain focused on Baltusrol’s challenging Lower Course.
“It was a very nice course, and it's my second major. It's been very good condition and just trying to play as normal as possible and see how it goes,” said Borge, who hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in round one. “The rough is very thick. If you keep it in the fairway, it makes it easier.”
Borge is one of very few players to have a local on the bag this week, getting hooked up with long-time Baltusrol caddie Corey Birch a couple of weeks before the event. While for many players, that is an anomaly, something they’d only allow on very rare occasion, it’s par for the course for Borge, who has used a local caddie in every tournament she’s played in this season. Having caddies isn’t something the 24-year-old is used to – Borge carried her own bag on the Epson Tour – and she’ll admit that having someone carry for her has been the toughest change she’s dealt with as a rookie on the LPGA Tour. Local knowledge is something that many players would consider to be an advantage, especially at a venue like Baltusrol.
But the rookie doesn’t see it that way. In fact, she hardly used Birch’s local knowledge on Thursday, making her under-par round in tough conditions that much more impressive.
“I'm not used to having a caddie. I just try to do what I've always been doing, just play my own game and just someone to carry the bag,” Borge said. “I got (Corey Birch) from the club, so it's been very nice. Really just want someone to carry the bag, and he's been good at that.”