DECATUR, Ill., June 15, 2007 – After two rounds of the $105,000 Michelob ULTRA Duramed FUTURES Players Championship, two different players emerged to share the lead in this week’s birdiefest.
Jeanne Cho-Hunicke (69), playing her first Duramed FUTURES Tour event this season, and 2007 tournament winner Emily Bastel (68), moved into the lead at seven-under-par 137 at Hickory Point Golf Course.
“I saw my name up on the leaderboard after the front nine,” said Cho-Hunicke of Longwood, Fla., who has spent most of the season trying to get into LPGA Tour events as a non-exempt member. “It’s been a long time. I have stressed myself out all year, so this week, my goal was just to relax and enjoy it.”
That mental approach paid dividends for the player who was in the spotlight earlier last year for making it into the finals of The Golf Channel’s “Big Break V: Hawaii” series. Playing then as Jeanne Cho, the former University of Florida All-American spent the second half of the season trying to focus more on her play than on her TV role in the show. And after earning conditional LPGA status for this year, she has tried to Monday-qualify her way into events – which has been the long road to where she wants to be.
“I’ve played here in Decatur for the last three straight years, so I needed something familiar,” said Cho-Hunicke, who carded four birdies and a single bogey today. “If it took all of the stress this season for me to finally play well, I’ll take it.”
Bastel felt a similar kind of stress last season just trying to keep her LPGA Tour card. She produced a consistent round today, hitting 12 greens and 10 fairways in regulation and used only 26 putts en route to her five birdies and single bogey. But prior to getting her putter rolling, the former Michigan State University player knocked it close on her first six holes and watched nothing fall. On her seventh hole (the 16th), she took bogey when she didn’t get up and down for par from a bunker.
And then on 17, she drained a birdie from 12 feet and a 10-footer on the 18th. Bastel moved to the front nine and birdied the first hole from 10 feet, the third hole from 14 feet and added her final birdie on the last hole from seven feet.
“After that one fell in on No. 17 and I birdied four of the next five, I felt a little more confident and I just rode the wave,” said Bastel, of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. “Sometimes, all you need is to see one go in.”
Two-time season winner Liz Janangelo (71), who shared the first-round lead, held a share of the second-round lead for much of the morning and hit 16 greens in regulation. She rolled in birdies on two of her first three holes and appeared to be gaining momentum. But she bogeyed the 16th hole (her seventh) when she missed the green, then added a one-shot penalty stroke for slow play (for a bogey) on the 17th hole when she took too long to size up her 40-foot putt.
“It was a long putt -- what can I do?” said Janangelo of West Hartford, Conn., of the penalty stroke. “Sometimes you teeter on ‘too long’ when you have to make a tough putt.”
Janangelo got it back though, rolling in a five-footer for birdie on the next hole. But she played the front nine at even par with one par save from over the green on No. 4 and more lip-out putts than she cares to remember.
“I’m ready for more putts to lip in,” said Janangelo, who moved into a tie for second at 138 (-6) with Mindy Kim (69) of Diamond Bar, Calif., and Brandi Jackson (70) of Greenville, S.C. “The greens are absolutely perfect. Whoever wins this tournament will make a lot of birdies.”
Kim, a 17-year-old professional, didn’t roll in her first birdie until the 11th hole. But that 15-footer got her going. And then, like any other teenager, when her caddie/dad --Young Kim, a Korean ears, nose and throat physician – told her not to look at the leaderboard, she peeked. And then she birdied three of her last four holes.
“Dude, if I want to be on the top, I’d better get something going,” said Kim, who will graduate from her Internet-based high school in August. “My dad told me not to look, but I did.”
Like Kim, Jackson got off to a slow start. She had birdie chances from six feet and 2½ feet until she finally drained a six-footer on the 16th hole (her seventh). Her only other birdie in the round came with a 12-footer on the second hole.
“It’s frustrating to have that many chances and not make it when you hit good putts,” said Jackson, a perennial contender still seeking her first Tour victory. “I just hope that the putts are waiting until Saturday and Sunday to fall.”
Two days after making her professional debut, rookie Taylor Leon of Dallas climbed into the solo third spot at 139 (-5) with a second-round score of four-under-par 68. The two-time All-American at the University of Georgia, who turned pro after her sophomore season, carded five birdies and a single bogey today to move into striking range of a win with two rounds to play.
“I hit a lot of greens and fairways today and for the most part, I played really well,” said Leon, 20, who played on the Tour as a 17-year-old amateur while at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
With veteran LPGA Tour caddie Jerry “Woody” Woodard on her bag this week, Leon benefited from the pro caddie’s advice about course management.
“When I had a wedge in my hand, I’d go for the flag and when I had a 5-iron, I’d go for the middle of the green,” she said. “I’m learning how to play safer and when to take chances.”
Florida State University’s Caroline Larsson (69) of Danderyd, Sweden and Purdue University’s Onnarin “Moo” Sattayabanphot (68) of Bangkok Thailand made timely moves up the leaderboard today. They are tied at 140 (-4).
The field of the Michelob ULTRA Duramed FUTURES Players Championship, presented by Ameren, was cut to the low 70 players and ties after the completion of two rounds. Seventy-two players made the 36-hole cut at 146 (+2).
Saturday’s third round will begin at 8 a.m., off the first tee only. The leaders will tee off at 11:27 a.m., Central Daylight Time.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Fair with a few clouds later in the day and a high temperature of 93 degrees. Light winds, increasing to 10 mph.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (217) 875-5335 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo Getty Images
Photo: Rémy Gros
photo Getty Images