Lee Lopez started strong and held firm to shoot a 4-under 68 on Saturday to grab sole possession of the 36-hole lead at 9-under-par in the Four Winds Invitational at Blackthorn Golf Club. Lopez, who has never led after 36 holes, will take a one shot lead into Sunday over Nicole Vandermade.
“It was a lot of fun, I drove the ball really well so I honestly gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities out there because I was always in the fairway,” said the Symetra Tour rookie Lopez. “When I hit good shots, I capitalized with birdies and when I didn’t make good shots my short game was good and that helped.”
The cut was made at 2-over-par and 73 players will tee off on Sunday.
26-year-old Penn High School alum Julia Potter--playing on a sponsor's exemption--just missed the cut by a single stroke after shooting a 75 Saturday and finishing at 3-over for two rounds.
Fellow Penn graduate, 18-year-old Kari Bellville shot an 83 in Round two and also did not make the cut. Bellville will begin her career at Notre Dame in August.
Two former Notre Dame golfers did make the cut. Becca Huffer shot an even par 72 for the 2nd straight day while Noriko Nagazaki struggled with a 75 and sits a 1-over overall.
Huffer will tee off at 7:30am Saturday while Nagazaki will begin her play at 8:40am.
The leaders---Lopez and Vandermade--will tee off at 9:30am.
Lopez made two pars to open her round. Then, she carded back-to-back birdies on the third and fourth holes. Lopez made five straight pars to make the turn at 2-under for the day.
She took over the lead on the tenth hole with a birdie to move to 8-under and seized control with another birdie on the 12th hole to move to 9-under.
“I think the early birdies give you a good boost of confidence. When you’re reading them well and matching the speed to the line it’s great.”
Lopez has already had an impressive first year on the Symetra Tour. She has made all 12 cuts and has seven top-30 finishes, five top-20 finishes and two top-10 results including a tie for fifth at the Decatur-Forsyth Classic.
She currently ranks 25th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list and sixth amongst Symetra Tour rookies.
“I’ve been lucky to have really good groups, the girls were really nice. Just to have the opportunity to do this as a job is unreal. I’m just excited to be out here and play everyday.”
The 24-year-old will aim for her first Symetra Tour win on Sunday.
“I had some goals heading into this season and I just want to stick with it. I told myself to have a good attitude out there and it is a process, this whole career is a process because you’ll have good weeks and bad weeks. I just want to work on what I’m working on, trust it and honestly enjoy the moment because it’s my first time (in the lead after 36 holes) so it will be really fun.”
A win on Sunday would vault Lopez into the top-10 on the money list and potentially into the top-5. The winner’s share of $22,500 would bump her season total to $36,134, more than fifth on the money list (Kendall Dye - $33,234).
“It would be a great help financially, that is for sure. Just to have the opportunity to win is great. It would be really exciting. Everyday out here is a lot of fun. A win would be great and I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and fighting for it.”
Lopez has performed very well over her last four events, finishing inside the top-30 in each.
Vandermade, who led after the first-round, shot an even-par 72 to sit in solo second place.
Jenni Jenq and Lindy Duncan, who shot a 4-under 68 and 3-under 67 respectively, are tied for third at 6-under for the event.
Madeleine Sheils, Erica Rivard, Selanee Henderson, Garrett Phillips and Jean Reynolds are in a five-way tie for fifth at 5-under for the tournament.
A total of 30 players shot under-par on Saturday.
STRONG DAY FOR SELANEE: Selanee Henderson positioned herself to make a run at her first career win on Sunday.
She fired a second round 3-under 69 to move to 5-under for the tournament.
“I hit the ball really well and I’ve been hitting it pretty well the last few weeks,” said Henderson, who has two top-10 finishes this year. “All my putts decided to start going in today.”
The Temecula, California native felt that she had chances to capitalize even further on the par-5 holes. She bogeyed the par-5 16th down the stretch and left birdie chances pass by.
“I bogeyed one par-5, which was really tough to come back from, but I followed it up with a birdie. Every bogey I make, I follow it up with a birdie so it kind of gets me pumped up I guess.”
Henderson has a local caddie that knows the greens well and she credited him with two long putts that she knocked in.
“I have a really good caddie helping me read the greens. He knows these greens perfect and he just lines me up and I just have to worry about the speed. The 40-footer earlier, I’m glad I had it right in the middle because it was going to be a long one coming back.”
Henderson has made ten birdies between the first two rounds.
4-UNDER 68 HELPS WESTRUP MAKE CUT: Caroline Westrup needed a low round on Saturday after shooting a 4-over 76 on Friday. She carded a 4-under 68 to get back to even-par for the event and made the cut.
Her 68 was tied for the low round of the day.
“I started off with two birdies on ten and 11 (her first two holes) and then I made two in a row again,” said the 28-year-old Westrup. “It was just very solid, I hit it very close so it was not like I had to fight for birdies. They came pretty natural so that was very nice.”
The 2014 schedule has been hectic for Westrup, who plays both LPGA Tour events and Symetra Tour events. This is her sixth Symetra Tour tournament. She has also played in six LPGA Tour events.
“It’s been hard balancing both Tours because you don’t know exactly where you’re going to be the following week. It is a week-to-week basis. I once got a tee-time 30-minutes before I was going to play in one LPGA event.
Westrup admitted that at one point, the balancing act was not easy.
“In the beginning, it was hard not knowing where I was going to be the following week, but you kind of have to just deal with it and just take it for what it is.”
Westrup has also relished the opportunity to play at the highest level.
“The differences are not that big. The courses are set up a little bit different. Every girl out here can shoot a good score. Out there (LPGA), there is a mentality that you have to shoot low scores every round because if you shoot a 74 in the first-round you know that you have to shoot a 68 at least to make the cut. I’ve missed the cut this year by one shot shooting 1-under.”
JENNI JENQ GOES FROM D-III TO PRO: Jenni Jenq never envisioned herself as a professional golfer when she decided to go Wellesley College, a Division III school known primarily as a great place for women to get their college education.
She played golf, but never thought she was good enough to be a professional. In fact, she never once broke 80 before her senior year of college and she needed a hole-in-one that day to score in the 70’s.
Jenq graduated in 2008 and played local California amateur events before deciding to turn professional to follow friend and college teammate Susan Choi, who played on the Symetra Tour.
Jenq has had her highs and lows in her second year on Tour. On Saturday, she had her best round yet, a 4-under 68 to move to 6-under for the Four Winds Invitational. She is in a tie for third.
Jenq made four birdies in a span of five holes on the back nine.
“The first birdie on the back nine, I stuck the ball to two feet so I think I started hitting it straighter and picking the right club.”
Jenq is excited to be in contention with 18 holes to play.
“It’s so fun seeing my name up on the leaderboard, it’s what I play for. I play to be in contention. Last year, I was in contention on Sunday in one event and I got really nervous and didn’t play my game. Today, I played some mind games with myself to calm myself down.”
Jenq went to the college with the intention of going to law school and becoming a sports agent. Her dreams changed after meeting her coach and teammate.
“I played on the golf team there because I do love golf and I had a really encouraging golf coach, Bill McInerney, and I had a teammate Susan Choi who wanted to play professionally. So, I wanted to give it (professional golf) a try too. After college, I played local California tournaments to hone my skills and improve my game.”
ACE FOR ELLIOTT: Beanna Elliott made a hole-in-one on the par-3 fourth hole on Saturday, her fourth career ace.
Once she was done signing her card in the scoring tent, she signed the hole-in-one ball and gave it away to the volunteer cart driver.
“I felt like I needed more club and then I was yelling for it to ‘get up’ and I think it bounced like 15-yards short and then it rolled out,” said Elliott. “It took a while to get to the hole, I think I had already put my club in the bag and then everyone off to the side was like ‘did that go in?’ and it did. There were just a few high-fives, I was pretty shocked it went in.”
Elliott said that her last hole-in-one came at a corporate day during the Australian season early this year. There were several hole-in-one prizes like a car and a vacation. The only hole that didn’t have a prize turned out to be the hole that Elliott aced.
In the second-round of the Four Winds Invitational, Elliott’s ace was a key turning point. She was even-par at the turn and then made an ace. After three straight pars, the Yarrawonga, Australia native made two straight birdies to end her day.
She moved from T67 to a tie for 15th.
“The hole-in-one actually kick started the round. I got off to a bad to start on my first nine and I got it back to even and then had the hole-in-one and I finished birdie-birdie. The hole-in-one definitely got me back into it.”
Elliott’s best finish on Tour this year is a tie for 17th at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship. The second-year Symetra Tour player has a chance at her first career top-10 finish.
“I’m pretty stocked, I will definitely be calling the parents tonight.”