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Carolinas Women's: Ashley Sloup gains 36-hole lead
Ashley Sloup holds 36-hole lead at Carolinas Women's Amateur <br>(Carolinas Golf Association Photo)</br>
Ashley Sloup holds 36-hole lead at Carolinas Women's Amateur
(Carolinas Golf Association Photo)
PAWLEY'S ISLAND, SC (May 17, 2016) - Two days of steady play from Southport, N.C. native Ashley Sloup put her atop the leaderboard at the 90th edition of the longest running women's amateur golf championship in the Carolinas.

In the final round of last year's championship held at Treyburn Country Club, Sloup found herself in the final grouping. She would card a 79 and finish T-5. "I was pretty nervous last year," said 20-year-old Sloup. "It was a good learning experience. I feel a lot more confident this year after that."

As a sophomore this past season at Winthrop University, her team won three tournaments and Sloup won one individually. "I feel from freshman to sophomore year I have learned a lot and have matured a lot in my game."

Rounds of 75-74 give Sloup a one shot lead. Looking ahead to Wednesday's final round, the wise beyond her year's Sloup quotes Ben Hogan when summarizing her golf philosophy. “Golf can be such a frustrating game," said Sloup. "When you hit a bad shot or have a bad hole, it’s hard to stay mentally strong, but it’s such a long game. You just have to stay confident and positive the whole day.”

The round of the day was posted by Carley Cox of China Grove, N.C. Cox, a rising sophomore at James Madison University, made four birdies to play her way into Wednesday's final pairing. Her second round 72 was a seven shot improvement on her opening 79. She will begin Wednesday trailing Sloup by two.

The top three competitors heading into Wednesday are each chasing their first CGA championship. Bailey Cocca, the 2014 runner-up, is one shot back of Sloup. With rounds of 76-74, the recent graduate of Coastal Carolina has a simple strategy. "I just play the course, beat the course," said Cocca, a two-time NYS Junior Girls' champion before moving to South Carolina. "If I do my job then that's all I can do."

First round leader Lea Venable of Simpsonville, S.C. carded an eight-over-par, 80, on Tuesday which places her four shots off the lead. Venable contributes her inflated score today to poor ball striking and her inability to feel comfortable with the flat stick. “I never felt comfortable over a putt and as a result, I three putted three times.”

Venable’s round was also lacking in birdies today, as she finished the day with zero red numbers on her card. “You have to make birdies to get your round going especially on a tough golf course.” Although her round was rocky and not ideally what she had hoped for, the CGA veteran says that she prefers entering the final round a couple shots off of the lead.

“I would prefer to chase the leader rather than hold a lead. I can sleep chasing [the leader] but I can’t sleep with the lead.” As for tomorrow, Venable's game plan is simple, “Play solid and play aggressive.”

Tuesday's play was suspended for 90 minutes at 1:25pm for lightning. Defending champion Katie Kirk of Greenville, N.C. is in 27th place at 163. Wednesday's final round will begin with a 9:00am shotgun start.


ROUND ONE RECAP

Conditions were tough for the first round of the 90th Carolinas Women’s Amateur at The Reserve Club in Pawleys Island, S.C. The wind seemed to be blowing opposite of its typical prevailing direction, which did not seem to bother three-time CGA champion, Lea Venable of Simpsonville, S.C. “I don’t mind the wind,” said Venable, who lead the field of 83 players Monday with a one-over-par 73. The beginning of Venable’s round was plagued by a couple of mishit shots due to poor ball striking. Fortunately, her putter came through for her throughout the day, “I made a clutch putt on my first hole to get [the round] going and I felt like the putter was going to be hot so I was pretty confident with that.”

Venable recorded three birdies on her scorecard to four bogeys. Her bogey-bogey finish concluded on The Reserve Club’s ninth hole, which played most the difficult Monday. “Everything was good up until the last couple of holes. Then play got a little slow but overall it was a pretty solid round.” Venable believes that with the way the golf course is set up, there is a definite potential for low rounds to be recorded over the course of the next two days. As for her thoughts heading into tomorrow, “I will absolutely be taking good thoughts with me from today.”

Defending champion Katie Kirk of Greenville, N.C. is trying to join just five other women who have won this championship three consecutive years. After an opening round 84, Kirk is T-26 and will need to make up ground over the final 36 holes.

Venable's scheduled playing partners for Tuesday's second round are both half her age. Ashley Sloup, 20, of Southport, N.C. is a rising junior at Winthrop University, she finished T-5 at last year's championship. Twenty-year-old Maddisen Cox of Easley, S.C. is a rising junior at James Madison University. Both Sloup and Cox made three birdies during their rounds to post three- over 75. On Monday, the inward nine at The Reserve Club played a full shot tougher than the final nine. Starting on hole ten, Cox made back-to-back bogeys on holes 13 and 14. A one-under 35 on her final nine holes propelled her into a tie for second with Sloup.

The Overall Champion and the Senior Champion (age 50+) will be determined from the contestants playing in the Championship Division. Kim Briele, 55, of New Bern, N.C. and Lea Anne Brown, 56, of Mount Pleasant, S.C. are tied for the top Senior spot at 8- over 80. Briele is the 2015 North Carolina Women's Senior champion. Brown earned her second consecutive Women's South Carolina Golf Association Senior Player of the Year award in 2015. The Director of Membership at Bulls Bay won the WSCGA Senior and placed runner- up at the WSCGA/SCGA Mixed Team Championship.

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