ARDINA IN FAMILIAR POSITION AFTER ROUND TWO
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — It’s an all too familiar position for Dottie Ardina (Laguna, Philippines) to hold an advantage after two rounds, but with two more remaining in the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge at Willow Run Golf Course she has plenty of room to capture a win.
After four runner-up finishes this season, the current No. 1 in the Volvik Race for the Card continues to chase that coveted first victory. Instead of the typical 18 holes in front of her, Ardina has 36 to get the job done.
“I’m just trying to play my game, maybe change some strategies out there with the tough windy conditions,” said Ardina, who carded a 3-under par afternoon that featured an eagle, three birdies and two bogeys. “I was a little disappointed with my drive on No. 18, especially it being a birdie hole. But, I still have two more days to try and make it up. I’m just going to play the course.”
Right behind her is a group of three individuals at 5-under par overall including Linnea Johansson (Bastad, Sweden), as well as a pair of Michigan State University alumna in Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin) and Liz Nagel (DeWitt, Michigan). Coming off a Symetra Tour career-best solo third finish at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship, Johansson is taking advantage of the opportunities her positive play has led to.
“I have been playing pretty solid all year, but now toward the end I’ve been able to get everything working together at the same time,” said Johansson, following a bogey-free, 4-under par 66 out of the morning wave today. “I feel pretty confident out there. I’ve had momentum going and know I can be up there fighting for the victory.”
Ardina, Nagel and Johansson comprise the final pairing tomorrow. They will head out from No. 1 tee at 9:31 a.m. CT, as groups will go off in a split tee format starting at 7:30 a.m. CT.
Meanwhile, it is a new situation for Ferrell. She headlines the penultimate group off the first tee at 9:20 a.m. CT and is hoping to keep calm with the fresh opportunity in front of her.
“I’ve never been in this position before, so it is all very new,” said Ferrell, who played in the group behind Ardina today and shot a 3-under par 67. “I’m just going to go out playing the same way I have been everyday and try not to pay attention to it. A big challenge out here is the greens and if I continue to putt well I think I’ll have a good outcome.”
In addition to those at the top of the leaderboard, the round of the tournament so far was turned in by Maia Schechter (Chapel Hill, North Carolina). The University of North Carolina alumna found her way to seven birdies and only one bogey for a 6-under par 64 on day two.
The strong showing launched Schechter up from 115th when she started her round to tied for 17th when the dust settled.
“I have been in this position before in my career, where I start off a tournament with a bad round then often try and push harder for birdies to make up ground,” Schechter said. “Today I drew on all those experiences and went into the round with the mindset that I was going to make aggressive swings at conservative targets and give myself chances for birdies. I think that was crucial today.”
A total of 68 players made the cut of 4-over par to swing into the weekend in the Mount Rushmore State. Furthermore, only 24 players sit at even par or better entering the third round.
17-YEAR-OLD ENGSTROM ENJOYING THE PROFESSIONAL LIFE
One of eight Sweden natives in the 144-player field for the fourth annual Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge, Julia Engstrom (Halmstadt, Sweden) is showcasing exactly why she received a sponsor exemption.
The Ladies European Tour (LET) member is 1-over par for the tournament after a 4-over par result in the second round, but she started hot with a 3-under par 67 on day one that featured seven birdies. At 17 years old, the first-year professional is working to find her stride.
“I like the lifestyle, it’s different and a lot more travel, so longer you are away from home,” Engstrom said. “You don’t get that much practice in at home since there are more tournament weeks. But in the end it is good and I like it.”
Engstrom qualified for the LET last December when she finished in the top-25 at Lalla Aicha Tour School in Marrakech, Morocco. Now in her final year of high school, she had some talks with college programs—namely the University of Oklahoma and Duke University—but decided to focus on her professional career instead.
“At first I had decided to do high school in three years, but my junior year I decided to do it in four so that I could practice more,” said Engstrom. “I’m not at school that often and am able to do it from a distance, but then I still have a place to go for my studies when home.”
Meanwhile, with the contingent of Swedes on the Symetra Tour, Engstrom doesn’t feel like she wandered too far from home to compete this week. It also isn’t the first event that the teenager has competed at in the United States.
“Playing on the LPGA Tour and here in the U.S. is the dream, I like coming here and the people are very nice,” said Engstrom, who competed in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, as well as the Ricoh Women’s British Open earlier this month. “I feel like it’s easier with the others here because we can talk Swedish and play practice rounds together.”
In the third round tomorrow, Engstrom will start on No. 1 tee at 7:41 a.m. CT paired with Natalie Sheary (New Britain, Connecticut) and Min-G Kim (Cheongju, Republic of Korea).
DOTTIE ARDINA ROUND TWO INTERVIEW
ALLYSSA FERRELL ROUND TWO INTERVIEW