Ann Arbor — The highlight to Marina Alex’s golf career to this point has been sharing the first-round lead at the U.S. Women’s Open.
That came last year when she shot a 66 at Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on her way to a 20th-place finish.
Entering the weekend at the Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club, the former Vanderbilt golfer who turned pro in 2013 is on the verge of getting her first LPGA Tour victory. Her 5-under 67 on Friday during the second round put her into the lead for a short time, and entering today’s third round she’s two shots back of leader Ariya Jutanugarn.
“I’m just going to enjoy it and have fun,” Alex said. “Going to just work on all aspects of my game so I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and see where that leaves me. I mean, there’s really no expectations for the weekend. I just really want to learn as much as I can and just keep developing to get better.”
Alex entered the 2016 season with just two top-10 finishes, and when she missed the first four cuts, it didn’t look like it was going to be a breakout year.
However, including this week, Alex has made six consecutive cuts with her best finish coming at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout with a tie for 23rd.
“I don’t necessarily think I was playing all that bad at the beginning of the year, I was just really rusty,” she said. “I’ve been making a ton of swing changes in the offseason and now they’re starting to feel more comfortable and just kind of everything is starting to feel like it’s mine and I own it, whereas at the beginning of the year I think I was just a little unsure with what I was doing and just not really fully committed to where I was and obviously now I am.”
Alex hasn’t been in this position often, and after playing early on Friday she was looking forward to getting some extra sleep heading into the third round.
“Going from late to early can be a bit exhausting,” Alex said. “You’re just playing a lot of golf in a short period of time. … So I’ll just, you know, pop on some shows on TV. I don’t know, just kill some time how I can.”
Coming home for Song
Jennifer Song, who credits Ann Arbor as her hometown, had one of the best turnarounds on Friday, shooting 6-under 66 after carding a 3-over 75 in the first round on Thursday. She sits at 3-under overall headed into the weekend.
“My iron games were much better than yesterday,” Song said. “I only had eight (greens in regulation) yesterday so I struggled a little bit, but after the round I tried to get my timing right and today it worked out pretty good.”
Song was born in Ann Arbor while her father was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. They returned to South Korea and Song grew up there before returning to the States to play college golf at USC.
Her best finish this season was a tie for 29th at the COATES Championship and Song hopes to improve on that over the weekend.
“Well, tomorrow’s moving day so I’m sure a lot of girls will be aggressive with their lines,” Song said. “But I just want to take one day at a time, one shot at a time and just see how things go. I just want to have fun out here.”
Gallery supports Hoffman
Sarah Hoffman was looking for improvement in her second round on Friday, and she got that. However, the 2-over 74 she shot after carding a 4-over 76 on Thursday was not enough for the Saline native to make the cut in her first LPGA Tour event.
A member at Travis Pointe since she was 5, Hoffman had plenty of support from the partisan galleries.
“I heard them the whole way around,” Hoffman said. “I didn’t have to look for them, I could hear them. So it was nice. You know, you make a bunker save or whatever, and it motivates you to do it even more next time.”
Hoffman, who played collegiately at Grand Valley State, had 16 pars on Friday, her only blemishes coming on Nos. 10 and 12 which she bogeyed.
It was a tough weekend for a couple of other players with local ties. Lapeer native Kris Tamulis finished 3-over and missed the cut by one stroke. Samantha Troyanovich of Grosse Pointe shot 4-over 76 and finished 9-over for the tournament.