Wood Leads Futures Tour

By Futures Tour MediaJuly 31, 2004, 4:00 pm
Futures TourBELTSVILLE, Md. -- Four weeks ago, Futures Tour rookie Courtney Wood was rummaging around in her family's attic when she came across her dad's pile of discarded golf clubs. Searching for a putting stroke she could trust, Wood plucked out a STX belly putter, knocked off the dust and emerged with new hope.
 
Wood's hopes and dreams moved to a new level after today's second round of the $70,000 Children's Hospital Futures Golf Classic. The recent Vanderbilt University graduate hung around the lead all day, then birdied three of her last five holes to jump into the lead heading into Sunday's final round.
 
'I've been playing well, but I haven't quite put together three good rounds,' said Wood, 22, who carded a 2-under-par 69 today to take the lead at six-under 136.
 
Wood spent a good part of the day chasing another rookie, Allison Hanna, who built a three-shot lead with three holes to play. But Hanna made bogeys on two of her last three holes when she struck an embedded rock in her divot and missed the green to the right on No. 16, then wasn't able to connect on a down-sloping fairway bunker shot on the last hole, which set up a 25-foot downhill putt for par. Hanna steadied herself and made a knee-knocker 8 footer for bogey on the 18th to fall back to second at 5-under 137 with her second-round score of 69.
 
'I only hit one solid drive today,' said a disappointed Hanna, a recent Ohio State University graduate. 'I guess it shows that it's not important how far it goes, but that it's in the fairway.'
 
Hanna got on the board early with birdies on holes three and nine, but her trouble started on the 10th hole when she found one of Cross Creek Golf Club's numerous Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs). A drop, an approach and two putts later, Hanna lost a shot to bogey. But she rattled in three consecutive birdies on holes 13, 14 and 15 and seemed to be picking up steam when she stumbled with the two late bogeys.
 
Hanna downplayed her disappointment and said instead, 'It wasn't a struggle. I had fun even though it took all day to play. This is what you play for -- to be in the hunt at the end of the tournament.'
 
And for the second consecutive Sunday, Hanna has moved herself into good position for a chance at her first professional win.
 
But first, she'll have to hold off hard-charging Kyeong Bae of Seoul, Korea, a rookie who posted a 68 to move into a tie at 3-under 139 with Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Bastel, a former U.S. Curtis Cup member, carded a 69 on the par-71 course measuring at a difficult 6,100 hazard-laden yards. For the second straight day, the typically straight hitter double-bogeyed the par-3 fifth hole when she hit the left water hazard.
 
'I'm going to birdie that hole on Sunday,' said Bastel, 23, who played collegiately at Michigan State University. 'That hole owes me one.'
 
Non-exempt LPGA Tour member Joellyn Erdmann-Crooks of Little Chute, Wis., fired the day's low round of 67 to move into fifth place at 2-under 140, while Rachel Bailey of Faulconbridge, Australia and Heidi Chua of Manila, The Philippines, deadlocked at 1-under 141.
 
Others had chances, but stumbled into Cross Creek's ESA Never-Never Land with little or no chance to recover. Long-hitting Tami Durdin of Adelaide, Australia, who was cruising along at 7-under par for the day after 15 holes, flew the 16th green into deep trouble and triple-bogeyed the hole. Then she bogeyed 17 and 18 to give back five shots on the last three holes. Durdin finished with a 69 for a tie with three others at 146.
 
But it was Wood and her belly putter who plodded along looking for opportunities and inching ahead when others faltered. The rookie admitted she had peeked at the leaderboard after the 14th hole and saw Hanna moving ahead.
 
'I told myself to just keep playing,' said Wood, of Brentwood, Tenn. 'My teaching pro recently told me to play like I had nothing to lose. If I go for it, I'll either miss the cut or break through.'
 
And Wood is hoping for the latter. It could happen. She's staying with her boyfriend's parents in nearby Lutherville, Md., and boyfriend Scott Neuen flew home to caddie for Wood this weekend at the inaugural 54-hole event in the Washington, D.C. area.
 
'I was kind of nervous about playing in front of his family,' said Wood. 'He's only watched me play 12 holes at the NCAA Championship. I even told him when we were driving to the course today that it felt strange for him to be coming to watch me work.'
 
But guess what? When you play like Wood, it's not work. And as Cross Creek's greens get firmer and quicker in the summer sun, Wood's belly putter is ready. It might be a hand-me-down club, but a first professional win will be a brand new experience well worth the attic plunder.
 
Seventy-seven players in the 144-player field made the 36-hole cut at 151 (+9).
 
Sundays final round will begin at 8 a.m. from the first tee only, with the leaders going off at 11:45 a.m.
 
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