Carolina Melgrati (Arizona Athletics photo)
USC has some company at the top of the leaderboard at the Pac-12 Women's Golf Championships while the world's top-ranked women's amateur inched closer to another major title Tuesday at Papago Golf Club in Phoenix.
Arizona turned in a 2-under 286 to gain a share of first-place with the Trojans at 8-under 568, three-shots clear of second-ranked Stanford, which carded the lowest round of the day to cut an eight-shot deficit down to just three with 18 holes remaining.
Carolina Melgrati and Lilas Pinthier shot 1-under rounds of 71 while Gile Bite Starkute and Julia Misemer held steady for the Wildcats with even par rounds of 72. Catherine Park's 70 was the only subpar round for the Trojans which compiled a 1-over score of 289 to maintain a share of the lead.
"I am incredibly proud of our team for playing great golf for a second consecutive day," said Arizona head coach Laura Ianello. "Today was about sticking to our gameplan and hitting the right shot with every swing, and we were dedicated to that philosophy all day. We are right where we want to be and competing for a conference championship. Our message for tomorrow is to embrace the challenge and everything that comes with it."
USC and Arizona are being chased by second-ranked Stanford, which bounced back nicely in the second round to turn in a 4-under 284 on Tuesday. At 5-under 571, the Cardinal is just three back heading into Wednesday's final round.
Stanford sophomore Rose Zhang extended her individual lead to four shots with a second round 68 that left the world's No. 1 at 9-under 135 and four strokes clear of her closest pursuers, Park and Melgrati.
At 3-under through 11 holes, Zhang was going along nicely in her second round until she made back-to-back bogeys on holes 13 and 14. She buckled down and birdied three of her final four holes to sign for a 68.
At 9-under 135, Zhang tied the 36-hole Pac-12 Conference scoring record, matching Stanford's Mhairi McKay (1997) and USC's Gabriella Then (2016).
"It's going to take every single bit of mental effort to prepare for tomorrow," Zhang said following Tuesday's round. "It's important to stay steady. This course is very difficult when the wind picks up. It's important to focus on every shot, understand what the greens will do and stick to my game plan."
Zhang had some ground cover on Tuesday, as rounds of 71 by freshman Kelly Xu and a 72 by junior Sadie Englemann helped the Cardinal to the lowest round of the day at 4-under 284.
"I'm loving the contributions from our freshman – Kelly Xu and Megha Ganne – in their first postseason," said Stanford head coach Anne Walker. "I'm also really proud of Angelina Ye, who has been out of competition for a year and a half. Rose is Rose and we are so fortunate she's on our team.
"I think we have to limit mistakes tomorrow to give ourselves a chance. And then we need some putts to fall. I believe we have it in us, but it's going to take a lot to overcome Arizona and USC. (Papago) has been a good challenge and a nice preview for (Grayhawk) later on in the postseason. It's giving us a good preview of how the ball performs in desert conditions."
The Wildcats will be paired with the Trojans for Wednesday's final round while Stanford will play alongside Oregon, which sits in fourth place at 2-under 574.
Stanford and Arizona Athletic Communications contributed to this report.
ABOUT THE Pac-12 Women's Championship
54-hole stroke-play to decide the champion of the
Pacific Athletic Conference. Team (best four scores
of five players each round) and individual
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