June 28, 2016

Partly sunny

Thompson makes her move

WESTFIELD CENTER — Wow, these kids grow up fast.

The first time Alexis Thompson saw Westfield Group Country Club’s South Course she shot a 12-over-par 83.

Just two years later, the youngest woman to ever play in the U.S. Women’s Open is tied for the lead at the Westfield Junior PGA Championship.

Chris DeForest is the boys leader and is ahead of Mark Johnson by six shots. His 13-under 200 broke the three-round tournament record previously held by Pat Perez (202 in 1993).

Thompson, 12, recorded the lowest third round Friday and is deadlocked with U.S. Women’s Amateur champ Kimberly Kim for the lead at 1-over.

Not bad for a girl who recorded two rounds of 80-plus in 2005.

“My putter was great, my ball striking was great, everything was great,” said Thompson, who played in the Open two weeks ago. “I’m longer now so it makes it easier.”

Thompson made it look easy when she erased a three-stroke deficit to Kim with some incredible accuracy. Thompson fired seven birdies to offset two bogeys, possibly saving the best for last.

Buried 30 yards left of the green, the Coral Springs, Fla., resident put a lob wedge to 15 feet on 18 and sunk an uphill bender to the right for par.

She sits a stroke ahead of Cassandra Blaney, two better than Vicky Hurst, who had bogeys on her final two holes, and four better than Kristina Wong.

Hurst buried four consecutive birdies and slammed six birdies in eight holes to put the pressure on Kim and Thompson only to watch Kim go on a birdie barrage of her own on holes 12-14.

Kim, who was the second-round leader, had the lead to herself but bogeyed 18 to wind up in a tie.

That leaves a great threesome going off in the final pairing today with some even better golf to follow.

“If there’s no pressure, there’s no point to play golf,” Kim said. “You don’t play to lose.”

Blaney certainly didn’t play for second, making the turn at 1-over on the round, but fired an eagle on 10 and added birdies at 15 and 18, while doing a little leaderboard watching throughout the day.

“I was watching the scores go lower and lower and thought, ‘If they can do it, I can do it,’” Blaney said. “This is the best tournament I’ve been in. To play here and be in the final group is great.

“To see Vicky go from 81 to 68 and shoot 4-under today was great. We’ll have some fun today.”

It should be all fun and games for DeForest, who needs to shoot a 70 today to break Perez’s four-round tournament record.

That’s incredible considering the University of Illinois recruit finished dead last of those that made the cut last week at the Rolex Tournament of Champions.

“That was tough,” DeForest said of the AJGA tournament in Columbus. “I got real frustrated after shooting a plus-7 after the first two rounds. I was embarrassed and didn’t really feel like being there. Afterwards, I focused on what I was doing wrong.”

Boy, did he fix it.

DeForest, who has just two bogeys through 54 holes, turned in a bogey-free Friday with 14 pars and four birdies.

His accuracy never wavered as Johnson, Connor Driscoll, Luke Guthrie and Joe Monte tried to play catch up.

Driscoll and Guthrie are 10 back. Jacob Burger, John Popeck and Jed Dirksen are 12 back and Monte is in a pack of four at even.

“I’ve only made two bogeys so far, that pretty much explains it,” DeForest said. “I had no bogeys today and that’s huge considering all the pressure I was under.”

The final round starts at 7:30 this morning with the leaders going off approximately three hours later.