There aren't many stops Katherine Kirk makes on the LPGA Tour where getting smudged comes with the territory of being a former champion.
The Native American custom of a cleansing smoke bath designed to purify the body, aura, energy, ceremonial/ritual space or any other space and personal articles. For Kirk, it's just one way the Australian knows she is back in the Green Bay area, where she won the inaugural Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic in 2017.
"The media day I got to do last month was pretty special," Kirk told reporters Wednesday at Thornberry Creek at Oneida on the eve of the third annual tournament that brings some of the world's top women golfers and celebrates the heritage of the Oneida Nation, the tournament sponsor. "We visited The Elder Community Center, ... and also some veterans, and I got smudged. That was very unique and certainly honored to be a part of that.
"But I think obviously the sense of culture and respect amongst the Oneida Nation is really impressive. Obviously, we (have) a lot of countries and cultures represented on tour. I think the more awareness that you have about other cultures and countries, the more we can kind of raise tolerance and respect and appreciation."
When it comes to respect and appreciation, however, few on the LPGA Tour have garnered more than defending champion Sei Young Kim for the work she did last year in re-writing the LPGA record book with her 31-under-par 257 total that gave her a nine-stroke victory over Carlota Ciganda.
"Last year, I was focused on what I have to do, and then very calm even (if) I made a lot of birdie," Kim told reporters Tuesday. "Before that round if I make the birdie (I'd get) little (too) excited or if I make the bogey (I'd get) pretty upset. But I try to control my emotion last year and that works."
Count Kirk among those who were impressed at the results.
Meanwhile, Kirk acknowledged that in its two short years on the schedule, the Thornberry event has become known among LPGA players for the large numbers of birdies it yields.
"Yeah, that was fun to watch," said Kirk, who was admittedly proud of how deep she took it in 2017 when she won with a 22-under 266 total. "I don't think really anyone had a chance of catching her on Sunday. She was just in this whole other zone and put on an absolute clinic.
"I mean, records, obviously we're used to seeing them broken, but I don't think anyone expected her to totally smash them. ... Full credit to her. She played great. I'm sure we'll see some really low scores this week, too."
As much rain as the region has received thus far in 2019 and as soft as the golf course figures to play, that remains to be seen.
Kim, who has been battling back problems since winning last year, said she has noticed during practice rounds that she's not getting as much runout off the tee as she did a year ago and could be hitting longer irons into greens. Kirk, however, sees a course ripe for low scores and wouldn't be surprised to see someone in the 144-player field take a run at Kim's mark again this year.
"Maybe a 59 watch; (you) never know," said Kirk, who is coming off her first top-25 showing — a tie for 18th — at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. "That would be kind of exciting. (The) golf course is in great shape, the weather looks good, so there will be plenty of birdies out there."
At the same time, Kirk knows this tournament will celebrate much more than its leaderboard.
"(I) feel like the Oneida Nation has really embraced the tournament and the LPGA," she said. "It's certainly made me feel really special, and it's been nice to come back and do media day and see everyone again and see what kind of changes are going on in the community and learn a bit more about the culture up here, how they promote women and what they're doing with the indigenous youth. It's just a really unique testimony from at that angle.
"It's been fun to kind of watch that grow and just be a part of it."