Stage II of the LPGA and Epson Tour Qualifying Tournament is officially through 54 holes at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Florida. What started as an eight-way tie for the lead diminished to two women on top. Natthakritta Vongtaveelap and Karen Chung sit two-strokes ahead of the rest of the field at 7-under.
Vongtaveelap fired off a 4-under third round, carding a lone birdie and eagle on the front nine of the Panther Course, as well as four consecutive birdies on the back. The Thai performed well at Stage I, sharing second place, and is on track for a top finish at Stage II.
“I'm excited,” said Vongtaveelap. “And proud of myself. Today my game was great.”
Chung carded three birdies on the day for a 2-under third round. The New Jersey native is happy to see her name at the top of the leaderboard but is focused on staying in the top-45 to advance to Q-Series. With unfavorable wind throughout the week and forecasted rain for Sunday’s final round, Chung plans to keep her head up and take each shot as they come.
“As long as I just make it through, I'll be happy,” said Chung. “The fact that I'm tied for first right now, that makes me even happier. But I'm not really going to think about it because I know tomorrow is supposed to be a hurricane. I'm just going to try to stay alive and we'll see where it goes.”
Pinyada Kuvanun, Chanettee Wannasaen, Miranda Wang, Aline Krauter and Selena Costabile follow closely in third place at 5-under. Standing out among the five was Wannasaen, who carded six consecutive birdies on the back nine of the Panther Course. The Thai says the best word to describe her round was “proud,” as she walked off the course on fire.
“I feel so proud [of myself], because in round one on Panther, I could not get birdies,” said Wannasaen. “I just got three birdies, but this round I got more.”
Kuvanun and Wang both went bogey-free on the back nine, carding seven and five birdies respectively. Costabile recorded three birdies for a 1-under third round. Despite four bogeys on the day, Krauter was able to fire back five birdies and keep her name near the top of the leaderboard.
Epson Tour members continue to shine through round three, with six tour players in the top-10. Chung (-7), Kuvanun (-5), Costabile (-5) Mariah Stackhouse (-4), Jing Yan (-4), Louise Ridderstrom (-4), Becca Huffer (-3), and Lakareber Abe (-3) head into the final round at 3-under or better.
“I try not to get too hard on myself out there, so that was kind of key,” said Costabile. “I made a few bogeys but tried to just remember there is lots of golf to play and just stay in it.”
Other top-finishing Epson Tour players, with a tournament total of 2-under par, include Auston Kim, Kim Kaufman, Lauren Cox and Riley Rennell. A total of 30 players finished even par or better.