9th July 2017 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Buhai within four of LPGA Tour lead
South Africaâ€™s Ashleigh Buhai is within reach of Katherine Kirk from Australia after she fired a LPGA Tour career-low third round 65 in Saturdayâ€™s third round of the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic in Oneida, Wisconsin.
The Australian followed a 63 in round two with a 65 at the Legends Championship Course to retain pole position at 20 under 196, while Buhai will start her bid for a maiden LPGA Tour title four shots back.
Fellow South African and former LPGA Tour winner Lee-Anne Pace followed an opening 71 with successive rounds of 68 to move to a tie for 23rd on nine under 207.
Buhai shot 69 in the first round, but a six under 66 in round vaulted her to joint fourth on Friday.
She made quick amends for a bogey start in the third round with a birdie at the second and reeled in a trio of birdies from the seventh to keep in touch in with Kirk. After another birdie at 11, Buhai racked up another trio of gains at 13, 14 and 15 for sole second on 16 under.
â€œI hit the ball really solid,â€ said Buhai. â€œI bogeyed the first hole, but after that I hit 17 greens in a row. I just kind of favoured the side of the pin that you have to, to score at this course. I holed quite a few 15-footers.
â€œI was cautious sometimes, but I knew when I could be aggressive. I had birdie chances just about on every hole after the first hole. I missed a few and I just had to stay patient. I knew I was hitting good shots, and then I birdied seven, eight and nine. That kind of got me going, and then I made four birdies on the back. It was good fun.â€
Just a couple of weeks ago, the USGA hosted 21 sectional qualifiers for the US Womenâ€™s Open across the United States with four more in Japan, England, China and Korea. Buhai was the only South African to muster a spot in the field of the seasonâ€™s third Major when she tied for the lead in her 36-hole qualifier at the Prestwick Country Club in Illinois.
She followed that with a career-best tie for 36th in the KPMG Womenâ€™s PGA Championship.
Buhai won the Cape Town Ladies Open and the Joburg Open earlier this year on her way to win the season-long Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies and took her Sunshine Ladies Tour title tally to six with victory in the Investec Royal Swazi Open in May, but Sundayâ€™s final round will mark the first time she will play in the leading group on the LPGA Tour.
â€œThere’s always going to be nerves when you’re trying to win a golf tournament, whether you are playing in the final group or elsewhere,â€ said Buhai. â€œI’ve known Katherine for a long time, so I think it’ll be good for both of us being in familiar company.
â€œObviously this is a bigger stage, but the situation is still the same. Iâ€™ve never been in the final group on the LPGA Tour, but winning is a feeling. You just have to take the same process going forward. I look forward to it.
â€œKatherine is playing really well. I saw I got within one at one stage, and when I looked again, she was back to three ahead. She obviously made a lot of birdies, and I felt I made as many as I could. We have a similar game. It should be a lot of fun.â€
Ayako Uehara from Japan and Jodi Ewart Shadoff from England are three shots back in third, with seven golfers a shot further back at 12-under, including Norwayâ€™s Suzann Pettersen, Tiffany Joh and fellow American Cristie Kerr â€“ already a winner on tour in 2017.
Due to the threat of weather in the area again Sunday, the start of the final round has been moved up with the groups teeing off in threesomes.
PHOTO â€“ Ashleigh Buhai; credit Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Ashleigh Buhai quotes courtesy of the LPGA Tour. Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour.