Seven birdies and no bogeys. That’s how Muni He (Chengdu, China) lit up Pinehurst Course No. 9 in the fifth round of LPGA Q-Series presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to card the round of the day at 7-under par 63.
The University of Southern California alumna is 16-under overall after 90 holes in the Sandhills Region of North Carolina. That mark is good for a six-stroke advantage over Elizabeth Szokol (Chicago, Illinois) and Hee Young Park (Seoul, Republic of Korea), as the duo is tied for second at 10-under overall.“I think the course condition was playing a lot better than I thought it would, it's very suitable for me,” said He. “The greens are very receptive and the fairways are pretty good, so it still runs out. It was just a good day in general. Very consistent.”
A rookie on the LPGA Tour in 2019, He most recently competed as a tournament sponsor exemption in the Buick LPGA Shanghai where she finished tied for 38th before jetting over to Pinehurst, N.C. for LPGA Q-Series. She said the entire season has been an incredible learning experience and great preparation for this eight-round marathon.
“I think I've just grown and learned so much throughout this year that I feel pretty confident right now just within myself and my own game,” He said.
Szokol and Park both put up 5-under par 67s in the fifth round, while Yealimi Noh (Concord, California) finished the day with her own 67 to climb into solo fourth position at 8-under overall. Her performance was 10 strokes better than her fourth round result of 6-over par 77.
Noh mentioned how adjusting courses from No. 6 to No. 9 gave her the ability to look at the week as a fresh start midway through the tournament.
“Since it's a new course and a new start, you really never know how it's going to go for the week,” said Noh. “It really is a marathon and I just need to keep staying patient, keep going through until it's over.”
FAMILY SURPRISE HELPS MOORE CLIMB LEADERBOARDHaley Moore (Escondido, California) had a busy Tuesday ahead of the fifth round at LPGA Q-Series. After winning the second annual All-Female Pro-Am event—which highlights the mid-tournament festivities as competition changes tracks—the University of Arizona graduate was greeted by a familiar face.
“I was sitting down last night after dinner and someone comes behind me and starts messing with me,” said Moore. “I thought it was my mom, but then I turn around and it was my dad, he came and surprised me, which is awesome. It was pretty cool for him to come out and see this because it is such a grind out here.”
With her father following the action, Moore played some inspired golf. She signed a bogey-free, 6-under par 66 and is now tied for eighth at 5-under overall after starting the day tied for 36th. The support was undoubtedly a factor in her skyrocketing up the leaderboard.
“I think it really helped me having my family here, who can definitely support me,” Moore said. “He was on the bag with me at Stage I, so he knows I played well out there and can definitely do it out here, too.”
49 PLAYERS 2-OVER PAR OR BETTER AFTER 90 HOLES
Competing in a total of eight rounds over two, four-day segments, the top-45 finishers and ties at LPGA Q-Series presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina receive Category 14 membership on the LPGA Tour Priority List for 2020. Individuals in that range, but outside the top-20 and ties also earn Category C status on the Symetra Tour.
A cut to the top-80 and ties is set for after the sixth round and the unofficial purse of $150,000 will be distributed at event’s completion. With 90 holes in the books, 49 players sit at 2-over par or better and 82 are 11-over par or better.
“First week was hard, I struggled a lot,” said Min Seo Kwak (Seoul, Republic of Korea), who recorded her first round in the 60s this year at Q-Series with a 4-under par 68 today to jump into a tie for 45th at 2-over par overall. “I don’t know if it’s weather-wise, but I did not like that course honestly. That’s why I struggled. I like this course, so can hopefully go low for three days.”
NOTABLE QUOTESHee Young Park (-10, T2) on the weather today at Pinehurst No. 9: “It was softer greens, so easy to hit and attack the pin. Supposed to be rainy today, but it was really calm and nice weather. It kind of helped make things easier than No. 6.”
Elizabeth Szokol (-10, T2) on the transition to a new course for week two: “I think it’s kind of fun playing a different course this week. It’s totally different than last week with bent, soft greens so definitely a different golf course. A little bit together off the tee for me, just being ready for it was the best I could do.”
Katherine Perry (-6, T5) on using the experience at Q-Series last year to her advantage:“I feel like I had a lot of experience from last year and didn’t handle it great, so I had a lot to learn from. That was really good. Staying patient and playing one day at a time, I’m trying to play it as two different tournaments instead of stressing out about the final score.”
PLAYER NOTESMuni He
- He, 20, is a native of Chengdu, China
- University of Southern California alumna
- Played 21 events as a Symetra Tour rookie in 2018, advancing to the weekend 16 times earning two top-10s and her first professional title at inaugural Prasco Charity Championship
- Finished T27 at inaugural LPGA Q-Series to earn Priority List Category 14 status for 2019 LPGA season
- Career-best finish on the LPGA Tour is T27 at the 2019 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational with playing partner P.K. Kongkraphan
- Made eight cuts in 19 events on the big stage in 2019 as a rookie with her highest result in stroke play being T35 at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open