Brittany Benvenuto (Langhorne, Pa.) made clutch par saves on 17 and 18 to retain the 54-hole at the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic at 7-under, 209. Benvenuto carded a bogey-free 4-under, 68 to take a one shot cushion into Sunday. Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany), Clariss Guce (Artesia, Calif.) and Therese O’Hara (Copenhagen, Denmark) are 6-under, 210. There are nine players, including Madelene Sagstrom and Nelly Korda, within three shots of the lead.

Benvenuto, 28, made birdies on one, four, seven and eight to jump into the lead at the turn. She made nine pars on the back nine.

“They were pretty important par saves because the whole day I was having birdie putts, but I couldn’t make any on the back nine,” said Benvenuto, who came into the day T6. “They were two par putts that I hadn’t seen all day and it was nice to drain them both.”

Benvenuto said she came into the event with no expectations and has even surprised herself so far.

“I wasn’t hitting the ball great coming into the tournament and I came out not expecting too much and I guess that kind of works in golf,” said Benvenuto. “It has been fun to stay in each shot and see what it does and I’m actually surprising myself a bit.”

The former University of Arizona golfer missed the cut last year in Rochester with rounds of 74-79. This time around has been much different with steadily improving rounds of 72-69-68.

“The course didn’t really set up to my eye last year and for whatever reason this year it is,” said Benvenuto. “I really don’t know why, but I like it this week.”

Benvenuto said her iron play has been the key reason why she has had so much success. She has hit 47 of 54 greens in regulation and has made just four bogeys.

“Adam (caddy) and I have gotten really good numbers this week and I’ve been able to hit the distances perfectly,” said Benvenuto. “Even if they are not right on line, they are in proximity and that has made a big difference.”

Benvenuto grew up about five hours from Rochester and she gave her dad a big hug after coming out of the scoring tent on 18.

“I don’t get to see my family often so it is nice,” said Benvenuto. “It’s great when we are in the northeast they can come watch.”

Benvenuto has two top 10 finishes this season and currently ranks 38th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with $14,106 earned in 11 starts. She has a chance to double her season earnings with a win on Sunday.

“Sunday is going to be a big day,” said Benvenuto. “I treated today like it was tomorrow mental wise. It is really fun to play in front of a Rochester crowd so I am really looking forward to Sunday.”

Bevenuto and Popov will tee at 1:30 p.m. The trophy ceremony will take place on the 18th green immediately following play.


MARISSA DODD MAKES HOLE-IN-ONE ON 9: Marissa Dodd (Allen, Texas) heard the loudest roar of the tournament after making an ace on hole nine, which has had the largest galleries all week.

It was her fourth career hole-in-one and third in tournament competition.

“It was really exciting, I’ve had two others in tournaments before and they were both with 7-irons so apparently that is my lucky club,” said Dodd, who hit a 7-iron from 158 yards out. “I hit it and was like ‘man, this is tracking’ and I thought it was going to end up just below the hole, but it released and went right in. It was a lot of fun, everyone started to celebrate. Lots of hugs and high fives.”

Dodd posted a 1-over, 73 and is even for the tournament in a tie for 22nd.

“The ace definitely got my momentum going,” said Dodd. “I had a couple rough holes early on, but the hole-in-one gave me some adrenaline and I birdied 10 and had a couple more coming in.”

It was the first hole-in-one in the two years of the tournament at Brook-Lea.

SOPHIA POPOV SOARS UP LEADERBOARD: Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany) was in a tie for 15th heading into the third-round. After a 5-under, 67, she will play in the final group on Sunday just one shot back of Benvenuto.

“The front nine was a little rough, I couldn’t quite get it going, but I made birdie on 10, 11 and 12 and that got me going,” said Popov. “The birdie on 18 was big and that is my dreaded hole so I’m really happy with the round today.”

Popov played in the U.S. Women’s Open last week and made the cut. She also played well in her last Symetra Tour start finishing T5 at the Island Resort Championship.

“The last couple of tournaments have been a confidence booster,” said Popov, who ranks 14th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. “It was my second major and first U.S. Open so it was great to work on my nerves and grow in that area with the big crowds.”

That will no doubt help her on Sunday with big crowds expected for the final pairing.


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