All that stands between Jaye Marie Green and a 2014 LPGA Tour card is 18 holes of golf on the Jones Course at LPGA International. Green posted a fourth-round 5-under 67 to extend her lead to nine shots at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament for a four-day total 25-under 263.Green entered Saturday’s fourth round with a seven-shot advantage after firing rounds of 61-68-66 for a three-day total of 20-under 196, marking the lowest score after three rounds since the Final Qualifying Tournament moved to 90 holes in 2004. She wasted little time in increasing her lead with birdies on holes five, six and eight, quickly becoming her fourth sub-70 round of the event.
The 19-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla. closed her round with birdies on 12 and 13 to end her third-straight round without a bogey.
“I was telling my dad after I shot 10-under on the first day that I wanted to get to 20-under before Sunday because then I’ll have a big cushion,” said Green. “Today, when I got to 25-under I was like, ‘Shoot, now I want to get to 30-under.’ I’m starting to get a little greedy. But I like having such a cushion which makes me focus on my game and not so much of the leaderboard.”
Chasing Green, although a long way behind, is South Korean Mi Rim Lee, who fired the second record-breaking score in the Jones Course on Friday with an 11-under 61 to take solo second heading into Saturday’s round. Posting a 3-under 69 on the Hills Course, Lee sits at 16-under 272 for the tournament.
Lee is two shots ahead of two-year LPGA Tour veteran Tiffany Joh, who shot a 4-under 68 to remain in third and three shots behind Joh at 11-under 277 is Stage II LPGA Qualifying Tournament medalist Amy Anderson. The North Dakota State standout carded a 2-under 70 during Saturday’s round.
Seon Hwa Lee of South Korea and Sharon Township, Ohio native Kathleen Ekey are 10-under 278, in a tie for fifth.
After the 72-hole cut, a total of 70 players are on their way to earning LPGA and Symetra Tour status for the 2014 season. The cut fell at 3-over-par 291.
The 90-hole tournament concludes Sunday on LPGA International’s Jones Course. A total of 20 exempt spots on the 2014 LPGA Tour are up for grabs this year, and an aggregate, three-hole playoff will be held to determine the 20th spot, if needed. The next 25 finishers and ties will earn conditional status for 2014.
Short Notice… Kathleen Ekey made a late decision to play in the Final Qualifying Tournament after being bumped down to the 101st spot on the LPGA season-ending money following the CME Group Titleholders just two weeks ago.
“I had to get my mind in the game,” said Ekey. “I was kind of upset that I got passed but my mom sent me a text and was like, ‘Make lemonade out of lemons.’ That’s what she always told me. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been practicing, but the way you practice for Q School is totally different. It’s a little different preparation.”
While she could have played the 2014 season under Category 16 status, those ranked Nos. 101-125 on the season-ending money list, she made an eleventh-hour decision to play the Final Qualifying Tournament to improve her status for next year.
After rounds of 67-72-69-70, Ekey sits in a tie for fifth at 10-under 278 and staring down a top-20 finish at the conclusion of Sunday’s final round to earn Category 12 status for 2014.
“It’s a long week and it’s nice to have played four good rounds of golf,” said Ekey. “I wanted to put myself in position to try to come out and play the same way I have been. It’s maybe a little less pressure being where I’m at but there’s still 18 holes left to play. I feel really happy with the way I’ve been playing this week.”
Final stretch… Several players were on the outside looking in entering Saturday’s fourth round but after firing 3-under 69s have put themselves in contention to earning LPGA or Symetra Tour status for the 2014 season. Purdue graduate and Stage I medalist Laura Gonzalez-Escallon jumped from 100th place to make the cut on the number at 3-over 291; France native Fiona Puyo moved from 88th to a T56; LPGA rookie Briana Do was at a T71 but moved to a T46.
Other notables who made the 72-hole cut include four-time LPGA Tour winner Lorie Kane from Canada (T56); 2005 U.S. Women’s Open champion Birdie Kim (T27); China’s youngest female professional Xiyu Lin (13); and nine-year LPGA Tour veteran Reilley Rankin (T18).
Notables missing out: Wake Forest standout Cheyenne Woods missed the cut after rounds of 77-73-73-73, finishing at 8-over 296… Big Break Mexico champion Taylor Collins ended within two shots of the cut-line with round of 73-72-75-73, at 5-over 293)…