Southern California increases lead in NCAA women's finals to 17 strokes

Annie Park of Southern California
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Annie Park, a freshman at Southern Cal, reached 9-under 207 Thursday and leads the individual competition by two shots.
By
Associated Press

Series: Other Tour

ATHENS, Ga. -- Annie Park shot a 2-under 70 in windy conditions Thursday to take the individual lead and help Southern California increase its lead to 17 strokes with one round left in the NCAA Women's Golf Championships. 

Park, a freshman from Levittown, N.Y., who won the Pac-12 Championship and tied for first in the NCAA West Regional, had a 9-under 207 total at the University of Georgia Golf Course for a two-stroke lead. Park birdied four of the last six holes after bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12. On the par-3 13th, after Duke's Celine Boutier hit to 6 feet, Park hit inside her. Both made their birdie putts. 

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"I wanted that birdie really, really bad," Park said. 

"That was huge," Southern California coach Andrea Gaston said. "She was hitting the ball really well." 

Southern California, 12 strokes ahead entering the day after breaking the NCAA tournament round record with a 12-under 276 on Friday, had a 3-under 285 for a 19-under 845 total. Duke was second at 2 under, and defending champion Alabama was tied for third at 9 over with Purdue and UCLA. 

"Absolutely, I like our position," Gaston said. "But the tournament is not over yet. I think it is incredible that we were able to actually increase our lead today." 

Duke coach Dan Brooks remained optimistic. 

"I have seen amazing things happen," he said. "Two years ago we were 23 shots down and won by 12. It would really be amazing for that to happen with USC on the course. ... I was proud of my team. I told them they were unflappable. I said they were Dukies. They should know that word. When they did something great they kept going, and when they did something not so great they kept going." 

Kim Kyung led Southern California with a 69, Doris Chin shot 72, Sophia Popov had a 74, and Rachel Morris shot 79. Only the top four scores each day count in the team total. 

Mississippi State's Ally McDonald and Alabama's Stephanie Meadow were tied for second in the individual standings at 7 under, McDonald had a 70, and Meadow shot 73. Kyung was fourth at 4 under. 

The swirling wind had the players second-guessing their shots. 

"It was really difficult because it was changing directions," Boutier said after shooting 71. "First the wind was behind you, and 5 seconds later it was going the opposite way." 

Brooks said he would prefer another windy day Friday in the final round. 

"I like the wind," he said. "We are a smart team. Of course, with the separation by USC and Duke today from the rest of the field, they were playing pretty smart, too." 

Southern Cal won NCAA titles in 2003 and 2008 and was second by a shot last year. Duke has five titles, winning in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007.