LIU TAKES THREE-SHOT LEAD INTO SUNDAY
Three-time Symetra Tour champion Ruixin Liu (Guangdong, China) is in a familiar position heading into the final round of the seventh annual FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship, as another 6-under par 66 propelled her to the 36-hole lead at 12-under overall.
“I’ve been here before, so was not as nervous as 2018 [when I won], but there is still a lot of excitement and nerves going on,” said Liu. “I gave myself a good position today and I am just going to try and keep it that way.
I have a few shots lead and that is going to take some pressure off tomorrow, but I do not want to ease myself into it because it’s only a few shots. I have to not think about the score and play the best I can."
Liu continues to manage competing through her foot injury. Yesterday’s round was the first full 18 holes she had walked since the final round of Florida’s Natural Charity Classic on March 8. Today at Battle Creek Country Club was challenging, but she battled back.
I really have to focus and try to forget the pain,” Liu said. “My dad really encourages me throughout the whole round, so that was really good and the plan is to do the same thing tomorrow. sometimes the final round can be really tough. I need to be patient if I don’t make many birdies, just do what I can instead of thinking about the results.”
SHIPLEY IN THE HUNT IN BACKYARD OF HOMETOWN
A graduate of Grand Valley State University and Hastings, Mich., native, Gabrielle Shipley (Hastings, Michigan) fired a second consecutive bogey-free round at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship to sit solo second just three strokes behind Liu.
“It’s exciting. I always knew what I was capable of, it’s just doing it,” said Shipley after a 3-under par 69 performance. “So far, I have been able to stay in the present moment and if my mind wanders, I will talk myself back into the present moment and not wonder about what-if because it hasn’t happened yet.”
Shipley captured the 2016 NCAA Division II National Championship individual title for the Lakers and was a four-time All-GLIAC First Team selection. Now, she is on pace to shatter her Symetra Tour career-best of tied for 26th that she earned at the 2019 Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge.
“I’ve been putting consistently, which has been huge,” said Shipley, a tournament sponsor exemption in the field along with her sister Sarah. “My last birdie today on No. 14, I made an uphill, little right to left, 12-foot putt. My emotions got to me because I’ve never been in this position before at this level.
“It’s a huge gift at just the right time. When I birdied the second hole, I knew I could do this. Yesterday wasn’t just a random day; I have the game.”
IN CONTENTION, BAIK EAGER TO SHAPE HER OWN PATH
Ji Eun Baik (Cumming, Georgia) is feeding off her nerves and so far through 36 holes, it is working. The Mississippi State University alumna in her second year on the “Road to the LPGA” turned in a 2-under par 70 at Battle Creek Country Club this afternoon to reach 8-under overall.
“It’s my first time in contention, right near the lead of a tournament. I’ve finished top-10, top-20, but it is just not the same,” said Baik, who is four shots back of the lead. “I was nervous once again, but not as nervous as yesterday because I knew how the course is playing. It’s really cool to see my name near the top of the leaderboard. I will give it my all tomorrow and see what happens.”
Although unfamiliar territory for Baik, she finds some peace in the journey that lies ahead—her first final pairing for a final round on the Symetra Tour.
“I’m going to talk with all the same people I talk to for each tournament—some friends, family members and coaches. I want them to know I appreciate their support,” Baik said. “I am also going to do what I’ve been doing because I want it to be my own experience rather than mimic what someone else did. I want to pave my own path and see how I play tomorrow since I’ve never been in this position.”
Laetitia Beck (-6, T4) on her approach to competing in Battle Creek:
“I didn’t have too many expectations coming into the week. Obviously, I want to do well, but it is also a warmup for the next two weeks competing on the LPGA. I was a little disappointed today with my iron shots because I didn’t hit them close, so it was a little slow. It’s good to be back and always great courses in Michigan compared to the Miami heat and Bermuda that I’m used to.”
Samantha Wagner (-6, T4) on what she did to stay sharp during the break:
“Not a lot. Golf, sprained my ankle in April going down the stairs so there was a couple weeks I didn’t do much. My parents got a puppy, so played with the dog and the last few weeks I played in some local tournaments on Eggland’s Best [Ladies Professional Golf Tour] around Orlando. Besides that, practicing and hanging out at home. I made a big swing change in the offseason and am glad I had some time to work on it. Pretty much a complete swing change, flattening it in the backswing and getting more to my left side coming through the ball.”
Lauren Stephenson (-6, T4) on her performance so far and what it will take in the final round:
“I still put a decent round together and anytime you can put back-to-back rounds under par, I am happy with that. The course played a little tougher today with the pin positions and a bit of wind. It’s going to take some good golf and probably a really low score tomorrow. Everyone is kind of crowded at the top, so I think it is anyone’s game. It is going to take birdies to win out here.”
- Born November 13, 1998
- Liu is a native of Shenzhen, People’s Republic of China
- Loves otters and especially enjoys equestrian when not playing golf
- Finished T67 at 2016 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament to first earn Symetra Tour status
- Three-time Symetra Tour champion in 2018 to finish at No. 1 in the Volvik Race for the Card
- 2018 Symetra Tour graduate to first earn LPGA Tour membership as 2019 LPGA Tour rookie
- Sixth player in Symetra Tour history to surpass $100,000 in single-season earnings ($124,839) en route to 2018 Symetra Tour Player of the Year honors
- Made six cuts across 20 starts as a 2019 LPGA rookie with season-best finish T11 at Marathon Classic presented by Dana
- Total of 40 events played in Symetra Tour career entering 2020 with 10 top-10 performances