RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. August 27, 2016 - Stanford All-American and match play wizard Mariah Stackhouse (Riverdale, Ga.) carded a 4-under, 68 on the Arnold Palmer Course Saturday to move into a five-way tie for the lead at 8-under, 208 after three days of Stage I of LPGA Qualifying Tournament. Madchen Ly (Fresno, Calif.), Savannah Viluabi (Downey, Calif.), Sarah Schmelzel (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador) are also 8-under with one round left.
Ly, Vilaubi and Darquea have each posted three under-par rounds. Only six other players in the field have been under-par all three rounds (Olafia Kristinsdottir, Chorphaka Jaengkit, Chirapat Jao-Javanil, Maia Schechter, Lauren Kim and Lindsay Weaver).
The 54-hole cut was made at 6-over, 222 and 135 players will tee it up on Sunday on the Dinah Shore Course, which is host to the ANA Inspiration on the LPGA. The low 90 and ties after final-round play on Sunday will advance to Stage II of LPGA Qualifying Tournament, the week of October 17-23 in Venice, Florida.
Stackhouse, 22, made six birdies on the day.
“I hit my irons the best I’ve hit them this week,” said Stackhouse. “I was able to capitalize on good iron shots. Today was definitely the best day if you looked at the quality of golf. It was textbook golf, nice and simple.”
Stackhouse, who has a laser focus this week, is not resting on her success into Sunday.
““My goal tomorrow is to continue to work on my irons,” said Stackhouse. “I needed to get rid of the pull. I want to give the Dinah Shore course a better run. I need to keep getting better, better in competition. This week is just another week and another opportunity to learn what I need to work on.”
Stackhouse will head to the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge, a Symetra Tour event, on Monday afternoon.
Vilaubi, 22, has won four times as a professional this year including the Texas Women’s Open.
“I couldn’t be happier to have strung together three solid days of golf during a potentially career-determining tournament,” said Vilaubi, who graduated from UC-Riverside in 2015. “I’m thrilled to be going into tomorrow with such good momentum. The game plan is to have as much fun as possible in the final-round.”
FRESNO’S MADCHEN LY HAVING BEST STRETCH IN FAMILIAR SPOT: Madchen Ly (Fresno, Calif.) posted a bogey-free 3-under, 69 on the Gary Player Course on Saturday at Stage I of LPGA Qualifying Tournament to move into a 5-way tie for the 54-hole lead with one round to play.
“This is one of the best scoring weeks I’ve had,” said Ly, who is a rookie on the Symetra Tour. “This is my first time shooting three straight rounds under-par. The first few months on Tour were tough, knowing where to stay and all that, but I kept telling myself that it is all about the process and journey.”
Ly, 23, was a three-time All-Mountain West Conference selection at Fresno State. She has a ton of familiarity at Mission Hills because the last three years of her career, the conference championships were played on the Dinah Shore Course, where she finished sixth as a senior in 2015.
“When I come to the desert, I feel very familiar,” said Ly. “I have a comfort and am staying right on the golf course with my parents.”
Ly has made just one cut in nine starts on the Symetra Tour. She earned Tour status by advancing all the way to Final Stage in 2015.
Ly has made 15 birdies through three rounds.
OLYMPIAN ADITI ASHOK MAKES BIG MOVE UP LEADERBOARD: Aditi Ashok (India) had her best round of LPGA Qualifying Tournament on Saturday on the Arnold Palmer Course. She carded a 5-under, 67 to move from T83 to T21.
“I hit a lot of good drives and that helped me create a lot of chances today,” said Ashok. “I also made some good putts both for birdies and a couple for par so that helped me keep the momentum to finish bogey-free.”
Ashok posted rounds of 72 and 74 on the first two days.
“Today was important for me to keep moving forward and it also give me some confidence for tomorrow,” said Ashok. “I still have one more day so I am going to try and create a lot of birdie chances tomorrow and enjoy my round.”
Following her round on Sunday, Ashok will head to Germany to compete in the ISPS Ladies European Masters from September 8-11 on the Ladies European Tour.
Ashok finished 41st in the 2016 Olympics, but was in the top ten after two rounds.
MOVE OF DAY BELONGS TO NOBUHLE DLAMINI OF SWAZILAND: Nobuhle Dlamini (Mbabane,
Swaziland) hails from a small country southeast of South Africa and north of Mozambique. The population is 1.2 million and the land spans just 6,700 square miles. There are only nine golf courses and really only two are suitable for a professional golfer.
Dlamini, who has played on the Ladies European Tour since 2014, decided to come to America for the first time in her life to give LPGA Qualifying Touranment a chance. She was in a dire position after rounds of 78 and 74 in the first two rounds and found herself in a tie for 212th place.
“If you don’t make it then sorry, you have to come back next year,” said Dlamini of the pressure coming into Saturday’s round. “I don’t really have much of a choice, I want to be here and I had to have a special round.”
She posted the round of the day, a 6-under, 66 on the Arnold Palmer Course to move from T212 to T64.
“I was under pressure and I knew I needed to do something special,” explained Dlamini. “I have battled with my driver. I didn’t feel comfortable, but I stayed positive through the round. My mishits were not bad at all and I putted really well.”
The highlight of her round was an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole. She shaped a drive that landed short of a fairway bunker and had 258-yards to the pin. She hit a 3-wood to 20-feet and nailed the putt.
“I was already 3-under at that point and I jumped to 5-under,” said Dlamini. “I kept telling myself that I am good enough to qualify and even the day I shot 78, I hit two shots out of bounds, but otherwise I was striking the ball well.”
Dlamini made birdie on the eighth hole, her 17th of the day, and then a par on the ninth to complete a bogey-free gem that has her in position to now advance.
The fact that Dlamini is in America competing to reach the LPGA is an achievement in itself. Her father,
Johannes Dlamini, introduced her to the game in 2004. Johannes started as a caddy at Royal Swazi and then worked his way to the pro shop and then got his PGA diploma through the R&A in 1998 and helped to start a junior golf program in 2000. Nobuhle joined the program in 2004 and just worked as hard as she could.
“I used to do junior tournaments, practiced three times a week,” said Nobuhle. I would practice, practice, practice until my dad was done with work at the golf course.”
Nobuhle got to represent Swaziland in junior tournaments including the Junior British Open. She then received a golf scholarship to a high school in Johannesburg. She later received support to attend the University of Pretoria and become the #1 amateur in 2012-2013.
“Honestly, my dad couldn’t afford to send me to school for golf so I’m thankful that I’ve received help,” said Nobuhle. “I won the SA Amateur match play and stroke play and that propelled my career.”
She got through LET Q-school in 2013 and has played on the Ladies European Tour the last two years.
“It is a huge step to try and compete against the best ladies in America,” said Nobuhle. “Swaziland is proud of me and I’ve had support. Paul Friedlander has taken me under his wing since I turned professional so I owe the Kirsh Foundation a lot. I hope to inspire others to not be scared and to take challenges.”
Unfortunately, in June of 2015, Nobuhle’s dad passed away. She knows he’d be proud.
“He always wanted me to do the best I can and I know I am doing that this week in America,” said Nobuhle. “I’m sure he is so proud of me and I just want to keep pushing to make him proud.”
- The youngest player in the field, 17-year-old Nasa Hataoka (Japan) carded a 5-under, 67 on the Dinah Shore Course to move from T30 to T7. She is the No. 27 ranked amateur according to the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR).
- Second round leader Sarah Schmelzel made a hole-in-one on the eighth hole of the Dinah Shore Course on Saturday from 170 yards. “I didn’t see it go in so when I got to the green and it wasn’t there I was looking for it and a fellow player’s caddy said to look in the hole and there it was,” explained Schmelzel. “I was surprised and excited since it was my first ace in competition.”
- Princess Superal (a), who won the 2014 U.S. Junior Girls’ Amateur and was medalist in stroke-play at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, posted a 4-under, 68 on the Arnold Palmer Course to move up to T7.