MILTON, Ga. — Entering today, Lydia Hall (Bridgend, Wales) trailed by one shot, but when the dust settled her even par performance catapulted her into the solo lead by one at 5-under par heading into the final round of the IOA Invitational at Atlanta National Golf Club.
“The pin positions were a little bit trickier, tucked away and some on the front parts of the green,” said Hall. “In the afternoon, the greens firm up a little bit, so they’re difficult to get close. Didn’t play as well as I did yesterday. Looking forward to playing tomorrow.”
It isn’t an unfamiliar position for Hall to be in. Last October, she captured a wire-to-wire win on the Ladies European Tour (LET) Access Series. While this is a different scenario, she still holds the 36-hole lead.
Right behind Hall at 4-under par overall is a group of three individuals, including 18-hole leader Charlotte Thomas (Guildford, England). She battled to a second round score of 2-over par thanks to a double bogey, four bogeys and four birdies.
“It was a lot more colorful than yesterday. The back nine was crazy. I made three pars,” said Thomas, who will play in the penultimate group tomorrow. “The front nine was steady, it was similar to yesterday, but I made bogeys. Hit it in a couple of divots on the fairways which kind of was a bummer. All in all, it was okay. It could have been worse, it could have been a lot better.”
Joining Thomas at the 4-under mark is Karen Chung (Livingston, N.J.), who is currently No. 10 in the Volvik Race for the Card standings, and Regina Plasencia (Guadalajara, Mexico). Each went 3-under par on day two and will join Hall in the final pairing tomorrow.
“It was awesome having both of us out there,” said Chung, who was paired with Plasencia in the first two rounds as well. “It’s definitely exciting (to be in the top-10) because last year I really didn’t have a good year. The season is still beginning, so we’ll see.”
As for Plasencia, she held the 18-hole lead at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Beaumont, Calif., before struggling to an 8-over par in round two. She definitely did not do that today, and remains strongly in contention.
“I learned just to stay patient. When those first couple holes don’t go the way you’re planning, it kind of throws you off balance a little bit,” Plasencia said. “Today, I was just trying to go one shot at a time and take the opportunities I was given.”
A total of 60 players made the cut at 4-over par and will compete in the final round tomorrow. However, only 14 individuals are currently in the red and of that group, 10 countries are represented.
GEORGE SIMPLY HAPPY TO BE BACK COMPETING
Making her 2018 season debut at the IOA Invitational was about more than the result for Avery George (Perry, Georgia), it meant getting back into the game she loves.
Late last October, George fainted in the shower and broke her left ankle. She underwent a procedure to insert a plate and five screws to help the injury heal. Needless to say, George was forced to miss the Final Stage of the 2017 LPGA Qualifying Tournament.
“I forgot how much that I missed it,” said George, a former two-time First Team All-Conference USA selection for Middle Tennessee State University. “I was enjoying the downtime at first and then boredom sets in. Then you’re seeing all your friends out, and actually being out here, I missed it.”
To work her way back, George went to OrthoGeorgia, orthopedic specialists that care extensively for athletes.
“At first it was kind of breaking the scar tissue, which was brutal,” George said. “Just keep building up the muscle, really. I think it will always be sore, but it hasn’t been that long so I think it will continue to get better.”
After some time, she started doing some physical therapy on her own.=
“A lot of leg workouts, I do a lot of squatting. It backfires on me the next day, though,” said Georgie, with a smile. “I have to build it up somehow, just building up the calf muscle. That’s still not fully back where I want it to be.”
Now ready to play and back competing, George has no hesitations with the ankle. At times, though, she said it is not only a battle against the course, but also the pain. However, she added it’s nothing a little ice can’t fix.
Today, George shot 2-over par 74 to miss the cut in the IOA Invitational at 8-over for the tournament. As she gets her Symetra Tour season underway, that’s not what matters most.
“It’s sore after walking 18 holes, but it really doesn’t bother me when I’m trying to swing. I think after like 12 holes it goes numb anyways,” George said laughingly. “I’m just excited to be able to play again. It’s more just as long as I’m happy, healthy and having fun.”
HOLE-IN-ONE PROPELS MCCURDY UP LEADERBOARD
Stepping up to the tee box on No. 11 at Atlanta National Golf Club, the second hole of the second round for Lindsey McCurdy (Liberty Hill, Texas), the Southern Methodist University (SMU) product had a 5-iron in hand.
She stared down the target, 178 yards straight ahead, then launched her ball into flight.
“I hit it good, was right on line. We didn’t know it went in, actually,” said McCurdy. “We walked away and started talking, then all of a sudden my host mom was screaming that it went in. That was pretty cool. She was pretty excited.”
The fourth hole-in-one for McCurdy, but her first in tournament play, propelled her to a 4-under par second round. Not only was it the best score on the day, but vaulted her up the leaderboard, from tied for 36th to solo fifth.
Having such a thrilling moment so early in her round had to get the adrenaline flowing for McCurdy.
“It definitely didn’t hurt. I was feeling good going into the day,” McCurdy said. “It put me in a good mindset and made a birdie right after that, too. Just good momentum.”
She’ll play in the second to last pairing tomorrow with Thomas and Kylie Henry (Glasgow, Scotland). They will tee at 9:58 a.m. ET off No. 1.
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