Virginia Women's Stroke Play: Greenlief retains lead

RICHMOND, Va., June 15, 2011 –– It appears reinstated amateur Carol Robertson of Virginia Beach is intent on making her return to VSGA championship action a memorable, albeit adventurous experience.

Robertson, making her first start in a VSGA championship since regaining her amateur status last September, shot a second-round best 2-under-par 70 to surge up the leader board at the 34th Virginias Women’s Stroke Play Championship being conducted at Willow Oaks Country Club.

She is within two strokes of leader and two-time defending event champion Lauren Greenlief (Oakton) entering Thursday’s final round.

The 20-year-old Greenlief (pictured right) followed her opening day 72 with 2-over 74 in the second round and owns the top spot with a 2-over 146 aggregate. Her closest pursuer, Robertson, opened with 78 and was six shots off Greenlief’s pace to start Wednesday’s second round.

But Robertson rallied to post the only round in red numbers the first two days and is at 4-over 148 for the championship. Hannah Pierce, 18, of King George, a rising sophomore at Longwood University, had a second round 75 and is five strokes back (7-over 151).

The day belonged to Robertson, who seemed thirsting for a rally from the outset, birdieing four of the first five holes, converting chances inside 8 feet on each occasion, playing that stretch in three under. Despite a bogey at the par-4 sixth hole, she turned in two under and added another birdie to offset a bogey on the inward half.

Robertson could only laugh when she reminisced about making a double and a triple bogey that derailed her round on Tuesday. The interim women’s golf coach at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Robertson says she always reminds her players to stay away from the big number. On Wednesday, she followed her own advice, collecting five birdies to mute the impact of three bogeys.

“Obviously, [Tuesday] was a little disappointing. Here I am, telling my players to stay away from the big number and I am a knowledgeable person about avoiding it,” she said with a laugh. “I hate making big numbers. I turned it around a little [Wednesday].”

After winning the 2006 VSGA Women’s Amateur, Robertson, 27, played professionally from 2007-09. She admits that returning to amateur golf is like taking a deep breath of fresh spring air.

“It’s definitely good to be back,” Robertson said. “It’s a grind out there, but I appreciate the friendships, too.”

Greenlief’s roller coaster round seemed to find some renewed momentum after making a 25-footer for an eagle-3 at the par-5 12th hole to move to one under for the day. Despite a stretch of inconsistency in which she made bogeys at Nos. 13 and 15 and a double a 16, Greenlief steadied herself with an important birdie at the par-4 17th hole. There, Greenlief’s tee shot came to rest in a hazard, but with the ball still playable, she somehow escaped the tall, wiry grass. Greenlief ultimately punched a gap wedge that landed on the front of the putting surface and the ball scurried to 10 inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie.

“That really picked me up and gives me some momentum going into [Thursday],” said Greenlief, a spring graduate of the University of Virginia.

And it calmed things on a day when things could’ve come unraveled.

“If you would’ve told me before the round that I would have three birdies and an eagle, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d shot two over,” she said. “I hung in there, though.”

In the final round, she’ll be in the same group of three with fellow-competitor Robertson, a finalist at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, in what appears, on the surface, to be a two-player race for possession of the Sydney Elliott Trophy.

Robertson won in her last VSGA start – but that was nearly five years ago when she captured the VSGA Women’s Amateur title in the summer of ’06.

“I know I have to play the golf course – one hole, one shot at a time,” Robertson said. “I know that I have to be patient and hope for another good day.”

Greenlief notes that she needs to maintain the same steady approach that helped her to repeat titles in 2009 and 2010 and has her holding the overnight lead entering the last day this time around.

The 2010 VSGA Women’s Division Golfer of the Year, Greenlief is trying to become the first player to take home three consecutive titles in the championship’s history. She knows she’ll have to be at her best in a variety of areas.

“I want to play smart, make sure my game is under control and – most of all – play with a lot of confidence,” she said.

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