It was a race to beat the dark on a marathon moving day. Jin Young Ko completed her second round on Saturday morning, then turned around for a 3:42 p.m. CT third-round grouping at Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas. Thirty-one holes later and the seven-time LPGA Tour winner is the Volunteers of America Classic 54-hole leader by one stroke at -14.
“Today was really difficult,” said Ko, who signed for a bogey-free 66 in the third round. “I played 31 holes and woke up at 4:50 [a.m. CT] this morning and finished at almost 9 [p.m. CT]. I played all day; it was a long day. But, I had a great round and it was fun.
“I did not want to play early tomorrow morning, so I wanted to finish. We did a great decision.”
Ko found her way to three birdies and a chip-in eagle on the par-4 15th. She holds or shares the 54-hole lead for the seventh time in her career. On four of the previous six occasions, Ko went on to win.
“This course is not easy but not too hard because greens are really small, so if I hit the green, middle of the green, I might have the chance for birdie opportunity,” Ko said. “Tomorrow, yeah, I didn’t know that, but I think I have a chance so I will keep it up.”
LPGA Tour rookies Esther Henseleit and Matilda Castren trail Ko by one stroke and round out Sunday’s final grouping off No. 1 tee at 1:50 p.m. CT. Henseleit (64) signed for the low score of the third round, matched by Mirim Lee, and will compete in the first final grouping of the final round in her career.
Castren, a recent Rolex First-Time Winner at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, used four birdies to fire a 3-under 68. She will draw on her experience at Lake Merced Golf Club to give chase at a second win in her last three starts.
“It’s great to have the experience,” said Castren, who shot a final-round 65 in Daly City, Calif., last month. “This morning, I knew what it was going to be like playing in the final group and being in the lead, so that helped for tomorrow. I know I’ll be a more relaxed and hopefully do the same as Mediheal on Sunday.”
Jeongeun Lee6 sits in solo fourth at -10. She rattled off three straight birdies to end her round and carry some momentum into Sunday in Denton County.
“I’m not satisfied with my result,” Lee6 said. “I missed a lot of greens, so I didn’t have a lot of birdie chances. But I have one more day. I finished the last three holes really good. I like this position, so I am going to focus on keeping it on the green and then just putting speed. I’m going to try my best.”
Defending champion Angela Stanford and rookie Ana Belac are five shots back of the lead in a tie for fifth. Stanford carded a bogey-free 65 to climb up the leaderboard from a tie for 29th. Four players are tied for seventh including 2014 Volunteers of America Classic champion Stacy Lewis.
Final-round action will begin at 11:38 a.m. CT in a split tee start and groups of three.