Korean American Andrea Lee seizes 36-hole lead at LPGA event in S. Korea

by | Oct 21, 2022 | LPGA

WONJU, South Korea, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) — Korean American golfer Andrea Lee grabbed the second round lead at the LPGA tournament under way in South Korea on Friday with her second consecutive bogey-free round.

Lee shot a six-under 66 to reach 12-under after 36 holes at the BMW Ladies Championship at Oak Valley Country Club in Wonju, Gangwon Province. She holds a two-stroke lead over three players: world No. 2 Atthaya Thitikul, South Korean amateur Kim Min-sol and Lilia Vu of the United States.

Lee is so far the only player here without a bogey at this hilly course in the mountains.

Lee, born in Los Angeles to South Korean parents, was once the world’s top-ranked amateur. She made her LPGA debut in 2020 and captured her maiden win last month at the Portland Classic.

“(A win in South Korea) would mean so much,” Lee said. “Just to be here and to play in Korea for the first time means a lot. And if I were to be able to cap it off with the win, it would be even more special.”

Lee had two birdies on the front nine and four birdies the rest of the way.

“Really solid, another bogey-free round, which I’m really pleased with,” Lee said. “I just made some putts out there. Hopefully, I can keep it going on this weekend.”

Lee followed her win in Portland with a sixth-place finish two tournaments later in California. She said the breakthrough victory has been a huge boost to her confidence.

“I’m just playing really carefree golf, and I’m really relaxed out there, just having fun,” she said. “I don’t feel the pressure anymore to get the first win, and I feel comfortable being on top of the leaderboards now.”

Thitikul, who can overtake South Korean Ko Jin-young as the new world No. 1 with a win this week, lost her overnight lead after a roller coaster ride through the back nine.

She missed a couple of makeable birdie attempts on the fifth and sixth, before finally getting her first birdie on the eighth.

She then picked up her first bogey at the 12th, and her round nearly fell apart on the very next hole. She found trouble off the tee at the 13th and missed the green to right. After a chip, she missed her par attempt and then yanked the comebacker for a bogey. She made an even longer putt for a double bogey that dragged her down to seven-under.

Thitikul bounced back with a birdie on the very next hole and then eagled the par-five 15th to salvage a round of 71.

Kim Min-sol, one of two South Korean amateurs here this week, held her own playing with Thitikul in the last group of the day. Her day featured three birdies, one eagle and three bogeys for a 70.

The other Korean amateur, Yoo Hyun-jo, also had an eagle en route to a 68. She is at four-under for the tournament.

LPGA rookie Hong Yae-eun is the top-ranked South Korean pro in a tie for fifth. She is at eight-under after a 70.

Fellow rookie Choi Hye-jin sits two shots back in a three-way tie for eighth. She had five birdies, one eagle and four bogeys for a 69.

“I had such a great start (with two straight birdies), and I felt good about my game. But then I made some mistakes, and that killed my momentum,” Choi said. “But I was able to finish strong with an eagle on the back nine.”

Meanwhile, Ko Jin-young, the defending champion, followed her 80 from Thursday with a 79 on Friday. She is dead last among 78 players at this no-cut tournament.

The BMW Ladies Championship offers US$2 million in total purse, with $300,000 going to the champion.

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