Blythefield gets tough, but past Meijer LPGA champs Korda, Henderson, Thompson still go low

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Belmont, Michigan — Blythefield Country Club actually showed some teeth, with some pretty stiff winds.

But that didn't stop two former Meijer LPGA Classic champions and one of women's golf top up-and-comers from going low in Friday's second round just outside Grand Rapids, putting themselves in prime position to hoist the championship trophy come Sunday evening.

Nelly Korda, the defending Meijer champion, shot a 7-under 65 and was at 12 under at the halfway point, two strokes off the pace. Brooke Henderson, this tournament's only two-time winner, shot 66 and was at 10 under, along with Lexi Thompson, another past Meijer champion.

Nelly Korda plays her third shot on No. 16 during the second round of the Meijer LPGA Classic at Blythefield Country Club.

They all were trailing Jennifer Kupcho, who followed her opening 63, her career-best round, with a 67, setting the stage for yet another weekend shootout at the state's premier women's golf stop.

The wind made for some unusually tricky conditions during Friday's morning wave at Blythefield, which typically is a birdie bonanza — but the stars managed to maneuver the elements just swell.

"Golf is luck of the draw, right?" Korda said. "Unfortunately, sometimes you're on the wrong side and sometimes you're on the good side of it. You just have to fare with it and see how it goes."

In just her second event since February — she had a long layoff because of a blood clot in her arm — Korda, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, is in fine position to become the first player in Meijer LPGA Classic history to defend her championship.

The par-5 14th hole got her round going Friday. She drove it in the rough and had to lay up to about 80 yards. From there, she flipped a wedge and spun it back into the hole for eagle.

She had a flawless card, with five birdies and no bogeys.

"Not many people saw it," Korda said of the eagle at the 14th. "It was that part of the golf course that no one really saw it, but it was fun."

Henderson, who won the Meijer in 2017 and 2019, also used an eagle to jump-start her round. Playing alongside Korda and starting on the back, she opened with four pars — and pars won't cut it at the Blythefield Country Club.

She then birdied the 14th and 17th, then finished her front with an eagle at the par-5 18th.


"That," said Henderson, "was a great way to make the turn."

The third member of Henderson and Korda's group was 2016 winner Sei Young Kim — it was a past champion's pairing — and Kim was at 1 under and missed the cutt.

Korda and Henderson both are chasing Kupcho, who burst onto the prime-time scene at last fall's Solheim Cup in Toledo, going 2-1-1 in her matches. She then won her first LPGA title in April at the Chevron Championship, the first of what certainly figures to be many wins on tour.

Kupcho again a flawless scorecard, with five birdies and no bogeys. She finished with a 32 on the front nine. Kupcho hasn't made a bogey through 36 holes, and is playing as confident as ever.

"Obviously, I've won a lot in amateur golf," said Kupcho, who starred at Wake Forest. "I was cold for a couple years, so to be able to come out and win, I think it just gives (you) a lot of confidence."

Spain's Carlota Ciganda, who won twice in 2016 in being named LPGA rookie of the year but hasn't won since, shot a 7-under 65 on Friday and was at 11 under, three strokes off the pace.

Thompson, the 2015 Meijer champion, and Madelene Sagstrom were at 10 under after firing afternoon 69s Friday, while Anna Nordqvist was another shot back after a 70.

Jessica Korda, Nelly's older sister, was at 8 under after shooting 68.

All eyes will be on Nelly Korda as the weekend progresses at Blythefield.

She used last year's win in Grand Rapids as a springboard to a banner year, that also included a major win at the Women's PGA Championship, an Olympic gold medal and a rise to No. 1 in the world. This season, though, was halted by a blood clot. She returned at the U.S. Open two weeks ago, and finished tied for eighth, alleviating any fears that rust might delay her return to the winner's circle.

"I've worked hard," said Nelly, "I guess I'm not surprised. I mean, I worked hard my entire life, so I'm all about consistency. If I can put together a good round, then I'm happy with that.

"I had a warm-up at the U.S. Women's Open. That was a tough test of golf."

Blythefield has never been that tough of a test, certainly not for these women — the average winning score is 19 under, and it was 25 under last year — and not even Friday morning, when it showed its teeth, and Nelly Korda, Henderson and Co. knocked 'em right out.

Among the locals, Michigan State's Valery Plata followed an opening 69 with a 78 and was at 3 over, while DeWitt's Liz Nagel shot 72 and 75 to also finish 3 over. Both missed the cut.

Elsewhere on Friday, first-round leader Pavarisa Yoktuan maintained her edge at the inaugural Epson Tour stop at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, shooting a 3-under 69 that was highlighted by an eagle on the back nine. She was at 9 under, leading by two over Kiira Riihijärvi (69). Among the notables, Michigan golfer Ashley Lau was tied for eighth at 2 under after a 71, and Saline's Sarah Hoffman was tied for 10th at 1 under after a 74. The 54-hole tournament, part of the LPGA's developmental circuit, concludes Saturday.

Meijer LPGA Classic

When: Through Sunday

Where: Blythefield Country Club, Belmont; par 72; 6,638 yards

TV: All days on Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $2.5 million (winner: $375,000)

Defending champion: Nelly Korda

Tickets: Starting at $10; details at

Ann Arbor's Road to the LPGA

When: Through Saturday

Where: Travis Pointe Country Club, Ann Arbor; par 72; 6,744 yards

Purse: $200,000 (winner: $30,000)

Defending champion: Inaugural Epson Tour event

Tickets: Free admission; details at

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984