Jackie Stoelting (Vero Beach, Fla.) made a 30-footer on the 17th hole to take the outright lead at the Fuccillo Kia Championship at Capital Hills on Saturday. Stoelting carded a second straight 4-under 67 to stand at 8-under, 134. Pei-Yun Chien (Chinese Taipei) carded a 5-under 66 and is one back of Stoelting at 7-under, 135. There are eight players in a tie for third at 5-under, 137.

The cut was made at 1-over, 143 and 62 players will tee off beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday.

Stoelting’s mom and dad both grew up in the area and she has had the biggest following this week at Capital Hills. Her father, Ed, is on the bag.

“I’ve got some friends and family out here cheering me on, which is always really nice,” said Stoelting, whose maiden name is Barenborg. “One of the volunteer cart drivers even asked me if I was a local today because of all the people following.”

Stoelting didn’t disappoint as she made two birdies and one bogey on her outward nine. She made birdies on 11 and 13 and then the turning point came on 17. She hit her drive left and had an awkward stance with her approach into the elevated green. She played a safe shot to the left of the pin and then rolled in the putt to take the outright lead.

“I did not hit the greatest drive, it was actually my worst one of the day,” said Stoelting. “Fortunately, the putt had one extra rotation and fell into the hole which is always nice.”

Stoelting has made ten birdies against just two bogeys through 36-holes. Her putting has been the big difference. She has attempted 55 putts in two days.

“I struggled a little with putting at the beginning of the year where I was hitting them well and not making any,” said Stoelting, who is 76th on Tour in putting average entering the Fuccillo Kia Championship. “I actually changed my putting after the Greenwood tournament.”

At her U.S. Open qualifier, Stoelting was 1-over after nine holes and got a pep talk from her husband/caddy, Travis, that changed everything.

“Travis just told me to trust my line and he told me that I was a good putter and I think I made five birdies coming in,” said Stoelting. “I qualified for the U.S. Open and ever since then, putts have been dropping.”

Stoelting currently ranks 28th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with three top 25 finishes in a row.

The 29-year-old is no stranger to winning. After struggling on the LPGA in 2015, Stoelting came down to the Symetra Tour and won back-to-back events.

“Winning those two events helps me tremendously for tomorrow.” said Stoelting. “I used to be nervous in these situations, but I’m not nervous,” said Stoelting. “It’s nice to be playing well in the heart of the season and I’m excited about tomorrow.”

Stoelting will go for her third win and 21st career top 10 finish.

She will tee in the final group on Sunday with Chien and Augusta James, who finished second last year, at 9:50 a.m.

2015 NCAA CHAMP IN CONTENTION IN DEBUT: Emma Talley (Princeton, Ky.) didn’t know what to expect this week in her professional debut. After an even-par 71 on Friday, Talley rebounded with a 5-under 66 to move from T33 to a tie for third.

“Overall, I played well,” said Talley, who won the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and the 2015 NCAA individual title. “On the back nine, I struggled to hit the fairways, but I fought through it so I am happy about it.”

Talley made six birdies against just one bogey on Saturday.

The 22-year-old is still adjusting to life as a professional.

“It just feels different out there being a professional,” said Talley, who has her dad as her caddy. “I was
telling my parents yesterday that I had a little anxiety. Definitely today I felt more calm and relaxed.”

Talley was a 4-time All-American at Alabama and has already enjoyed success in professional events, but the round re-enforces the believe that she can compete.

“It definitely makes me feel like I can do it,” said Talley. “I felt like I didn’t play that well yesterday so I’m just staying in the process and taking one step at a time.”

BRITTANY MARCHAND GAINING DISTANCE: Brittany Marchand (Ontario, Canada) carded a 4-under 67 on Saturday to move up to a tie for third at 5-under, 137. In a strange twist that Marchand can’t really explain, she started to hit the ball 5-10 yards farther per club two weeks ago in Milton, Georgia.

“It’s bizarre,” admitted Marchand. “Especially at the end of a 5-week stretch I had to bump all my clubs up one. I’ve hit the same distances for most of career and I don’t know what happened, but I am hitting the ball longer.”

Marchand is not complaining and now that she is getting more comfortable with the new distances, she is taking full advantage.

“It has been a good thing, but a little hard to adjust,” said Marchand. “I feel more confident over the ball now that I am comfortable with the distances and I feel like my game has been really close for awhile and now it is about breaking through.”

Marchand made four birdies during her bogey-free round.

Marchand has made the cut in six straight events and has had some strong rounds this year including a 66 at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic.

“I feel like it is in me,” said Marchand. “Now, it is all about being confident and I am starting to get there. Early in the year, I felt like I had to win every event and that is ridiculous especially for my first year. I’ve been playing a lot better when my expectations are down and I just go play.

QUICK NOTE
• Caroline Powers, whose father “Buddy” was the RPI hockey coach from 1989-1994, carded a 6-under 65 to move from T116 to T36.
• Nelly Korda carded a 4-under 67 to move to T36 at 1-under, 141.
• Former N.C. State teammates Augusta James and Brittany Marchand are tied for third.
• Five players T3 or better have won on the Symetra Tour previously.

 

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