Benyapa “Gift” Niphatsophon (Bangkok, Thailand) made eight birdies on Saturday to post a 5-under, 67, the lowest round of this year’s tournament, to jump into the 36-hole lead at the Sara Bay Classic. Niphatsophon stands at 5-under, 139. Hannah Green (Perth, Australia) is two off the lead after a 2-under, 70 to get to 3-under, 141.

Elizabeth Tong (Thornhill, Ontario), Elizabeth Szokol (Winnetka, Ill.) and Princess Superal (Dasmarinas City, Philippines) share third at even-par, 144. A total of 68 players made the cut at 9-over, 153.

Niphatsophon’s playing partners, Julia Roth and Portland Rosen, both joked after the round that they wanted Niphatsophon’s autograph.

Niphatsophon, who leads the current Volvik Race for the Card money list with $19,045 earned in three starts, will go for her first victory on Sunday. The winner will receive the first-place check of $16,500.

“I shot 5-under and I’m excited about my round today,” said Niphatsophon, who has finished second twice early in the season. “With this course, anything can happen.”

Niphatsophon, 19, started on fire with back-to-back birdies on one and two. She birdied four of the first six holes and made the turn in 32. She made three more birdies on the back nine including one that measured “four flags” on hole 16.

In 2016, she competed on the LPGA Tour and made 18 starts. She made eight cuts. Niphatsophon dealt with a left wrist injury throughout last year.

“The LPGA was very tough, but very fun too,” said Niphatsophon. “I had a chance to play with some of the top players in the world so that is very exciting.”

Niphatsophon was very cautious when asked about her chances on Sunday.

“I have a chance, but I’m not thinking about winning,” said Niphatsophon. “I have a chance to win more than some others, but that is all.”

The two most interesting things about Niphatsophon’s game are her distance off the tee and the speed at which she plays. She is averaging just over 270 yards per drive through three events and nearly drove the 313-yard par-4 11th hole.

Meanwhile, she wastes very little time between shots.

“I have always liked fast things like cars,” said Niphatsophon. “My mom doesn’t like when I play fast, but I just have always been a fast player.”

Green, who ranks 26th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with one top 10, played the back nine in 33 without a bogey to get into the final group.

“I made a good solid par on hole ten and then birdied 11 and 12 and that was the turning point,” said Green. “My head was more in the game after those holes and I made birdie on 17.”

Green told reporters that she is a scoreboard watcher and that will continue in the final group on Sunday.

“I’ll know what is going on first hand, but I will be watching the leaderboard to see if anyone is creeping up from behind,” said Green. “It doesn’t change what I’m going to do on the course or when I’m going to attack, it is just good to know I think.”

Niphatsophon, Green and Tong will tee at 12:02 p.m.

PRINCESS SUPERAL IN HUNT

Princess Superal, 20, is in her first year on the Symetra Tour and will have a chance for her first top 10 finish on Sunday. She posted a 1-under, 71 on Saturday.

“I played pretty good today,” said Superal, who played on the Asian Tour in 2016. “I missed a couple of short putts so I could have scored even better, but I’m still pretty happy.”

Superal has made the cut in each of her three starts and her best finish is a T26 at the POC Med Golf
Classic.

“I was a little nervous coming here to play Symetra (Tour) because I didn’t know what to expect,” said Superal. “You really just have to play consistently every week.”

If you were wondering, Princess is just a common name in the Philippines and she is not a Princess beyond her first name.

NO. 4 ON MONEY LIST TANGUAY HAS STRONG 2ND ROUND

Anne-Catherine Tanguay (Quebec, Canada) turned in a 2-under, 70 on Saturday to jump from T43 to ninth at 2-over, 146 for the tournament.

“I’m really happy with my round, especially considering my energy levels were pretty low,” said Tanguay, who ranks fourth on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. “I battled through and that is a small victory for me. I wouldn’t say I hit it great, but I scrambled and made a lot of really, really good up and downs and really good putts.”

Tanguay made five birdies on the day and managed a 70 even with a double-bogey on hole 14.

After a 76 on Friday, Tanguay said she was just focused on making sure she made the cut today and now she has a chance at her fourth top 10 in as many starts.

“Some really good putts got me back in the game and we were patient today,” said Tanguay. “I actually got a new putter in the bag and it is working really, really well.”

SHANNON FISH MOVES TO T6 WITH 71

Shannon Fish (Spring, Texas) made three birdies during a steady round to move from T14 to T6. She followed up a 74 on Friday with a 71 to stand six shots off the lead.

“I’m really happy, I felt like the more pars I tried to make the better I would play,” said Fish. “I got a little aggressive on nine and made bogey, but I just felt like if I kept it in play and give myself a chance to at least two-putt for par that I’d be in the game.”

Fish has one top 10 finish this year, but has missed out on the money in the last two tournaments.

“I’m looking forward to being towards the top of the leaderboard again,” said Fish. “It’s an exciting feeling and I hope that I can handle it well.”

Fish has five career top 10 finishes on the Symetra Tour.

OF NOTE

• A total of 14 players posted under-par rounds on Saturday compared to just five on Friday.

• Number one (Niphatsophon), four (Tanguay) and seven (Lindsey Weaver) on the Volvik Race for the Card money list are in the top 10.

• Venice, Florida native Casey Kennedy posted a 2-under, 70 to get to a tie for tenth.

 

Photo Credit: ©2015 Scott A. Miller

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