RUMFORD, Rhode Island – Mariel Galdiano is the 36-hole leader in the Girls’ Division, while Norman Xiong paces the Boys’ Division after three rounds at the 41st Junior PGA Championship presented by Under Armour and Genesis Networks, which is being contested this week at Wannamoisett Country Club.
With a two-day total of 131, Galdiano (64-67) enjoys a three-shot advantage over Gina Kim of Chapel Hill, N.C.
Galdiano followed her women’s competitive course-record 64 on Tuesday with a 67 today. Three birdies on the backside, the last of which came via a 10-foot birdie putt on 18 that was accompanied by a rare fist pump, allowed her to equal the low round the day. One of those she matched was Kim, who replicated her 67 on Tuesday.
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After consecutive bogeys on 6 and 7, Galdiano suddenly found herself one-shot back of Gainesville, Florida’s Youngin Chun, who birdied four of Wannamoisett’s initial eight holes.
“I was playing lousy golf early,” said Galdiano, who is playing in her final junior tournament before beginning her collegiate career at UCLA later this month. “I was affected by the heat, but I put myself in some bad positions and posted some higher numbers. I had a good comeback birdie on 9, and ultimately I was able to post a much better score than I thought I could shoot earlier in the day.”
The two-stroke lead Galdiano owned this morning increased to three by round’s end. Her status as the front runner didn’t cause alarm, despite the fact she squandered a three-shot lead with six holes to go at last year’s Junior PGA Championship.
“I am not worried about it. I plan to focus on playing my best rather than trying to beat everyone else. That will be my mindset tomorrow.”
Rain and a pair of play stoppages totaling over three hours forced the postponement of Girls’ Division play on Wednesday and reduced its Championship to 54 holes.
Kim – at 134 -- is comfortable with her second-place standing and three-shot deficit.
“I don’t want to be the one defending my position. I’d rather be the one going after it. In my successes (this) summer, I was never the leader. It was more me catching up on the back nine, turning it over, and winning.”
Chun paired today’s 69 with Tuesday’s 67 and is alone in third place at 136. Virginia Green (66-71), of Point Clear, Alabama and Lucy Li (66-71) of Redwood Shores, California, are tied for fourth at 137, six shot behind Galdiano.
The Girls’ field was cut down to exactly 30 girls following play today. Defending Champion Elizabeth Wang (71-74, +3), San Marino, California, made the cut with two shots to spare. She is tied for 22nd place.
The third round of the Boys’ Division was played this afternoon in muggy, yet breezy, conditions at Wannamoisett. The Boys were able to work around Wednesday’s play stoppages, and remain on track for a 72-hole championship.
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Norman Xiong, of Canyon Lake, California, will take a one-shot cushion into Friday’s final round. Davis Shore, of Knoxville, Tennessee is his closest competitor, while Garrett Barber (Stuart, Florida), Kyle Vance (Audubon, Pennsylvania) and Kyle Hogan (Cypress, Texas) are tied for third, two strokes back.
Battling a two-day illness and a sore throat, Xiong struggled out of the chute, but was able to cast aside a bogey-par-bogey start to record a 68, which was one of just seven sub-par rounds registered today on the Boys’ side.
Born in Guam, Xiong (68-70-68, 206) pulled ahead of Shore late thanks to a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, which snapped a string of six straight pars to begin his inward nine. The birdie and his subsequent par on 18 left him as the lone member of the Boys Division under par after three rounds.
“I like my position (atop the leaderboard),” said Xiong, a member of the Class of 2017, who has already committed to play collegiately at the University of Oregon. “I am glad to be under par (one-under) on a tough course like this, especially considering the wind, which switched a lot today.”
While Xiong was pleased with his position, Shore liked his own steady play, which included 17 pars and a morale-boosting birdie-three on No. 16.
“I started slow, but kept saving pars,” said Shore, who did not miss any greens on the back nine and sports a three-day total of 207. “Then on the back side I missed three or four makeable birdie putts. Those are tough in the afternoons with all the foot traffic. I felt like I was hitting it solid, then I finally broke through and hit it close on 16. Made the putt. Overall, I did a good job today of avoiding the trouble spots.”
Hogan (70-67-71, 208) began the day one-shot back and shot a 2-over 36 on his outward nine, but three straight birdies on 10, 11 and 12 put him atop the leaderboard. He slumped thereafter, shouldering bogeys on 13, 14 and 18.
Barber (70-71-67, 208) posted one of the best rounds of the afternoon, a sturdy 2-under par 67 that was sparked by a 40-foot chip in on the 7th hole.
At 208, Vance endured a trying front nine that included four bogeys and a double, but rebounded with five birdies against just two bogeys on his last nine holes. He was tied for the lead after 36 holes.
In all, 12 players are within four shots of Xiong, setting the stage for a Friday morning shootout.
The prizes at hand include not only a coveted Junior PGA Championship, but potentially two spots in next month’s Junior Ryder Cup. Same formula for the Girls.
Shore acknowledged the elephant in the room.
“It is impossible not to think about playing in the Junior Ryder Cup,” he admitted.