As the winds continued to blow on Thursday at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei, sponsor invite Yu Jin Sung and 2023 LPGA Tour rookie Natthakritta Vongtaveelap battled their way to a share of the 36-hole lead at Hoakalei Country Club. Vongtaveelap, who shared the first-round lead with Sweden’s Frida Kinhult, had a slow start to her day, parring the first three holes before dropping a shot at the par-3 fourth hole. She got that shot back with a birdie on No. 7 but gave it right back again with a bogey on the eighth hole. Turning in 37, Vongtaveelap grabbed a birdie on the par-4 10th and made two more on holes 13 and 15 to post a 2-under 70 and hold the 36-hole co-lead for the second time in two career starts.
“My round was not really good, but okay,” said the Thailand native, who has not shot over par in six career rounds on the LPGA Tour. “I would say my driver and approach shot today is great, except some holes. But total result is good. My putter today not really good, but okay.”
Sung made her presence known on day one in Ewa Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, opening with a 4-under 68 that saw her make five birdies and one bogey in challenging, windy conditions. The soon-to-be 23-year-old backed that first-round score up with another 68, again making one bogey and five birdies. She had a sluggish start to the second round, making pars on the first and second holes, but Sung managed to grab a birdie on the par-4 No. 3. She then made six consecutive pars on holes four through nine and came out swinging with nine holes to play. Sung recorded back-to-back birdies on holes 10 and 11 and made two more on Nos. 13 and 15, finishing at 8-under overall and a tie for the lead.
“It was really windy day today and then just physical condition-wise I'm still getting used to the jet lag, so it was tough. Fortunately, the wind direction was the same as yesterday, so it was easy to adjust,” said Sung, who won the 2022 LOTTE Open on the KLPGA and is competing in her third LPGA Tour event. “It seems like my relationship with LOTTE is pretty good. I'm hoping to continue to perform well at these events and do even better in the later rounds.”
A pair of Euros are in a tie for third at 7-under: major champion Georgia Hall and Epson Tour graduate Linnea Strom. Hall, who celebrated her 27th birthday yesterday, gifted herself with a bogey-free, 6-under 66 on Thursday to again sit in contention with the weekend looming large. Finishing runner-up in her last two starts, she hopes to break that streak at Hoakalei and hoist the third trophy of her LPGA Tour career. “To be honest, it’s just the hard work over the past year and a half,” she said. “It's all coming together, and I feel very mentally confident and calm when I'm out there. Very patient as well.”
Epson Tour winner Grace Kim and LPGA Tour winners Christina Kim and Nasa Hataoka share fifth at 6-under overall. Kentuckian Lauren Hartlage is alone in eighth with 2018 Chevron champion Pernilla Lindberg and Sunday qualifier Siyun Liu in a tie for ninth, rounding out the top 10. Two-time LOTTE champion Brooke Henderson sits in a tie for 11th at 3-under and defending champion Hyo Joo Kim sits at T57 after recording a 6-over 78 in round two. A total of 73 players made the cut at 2-over.