Castrale, who admitted she got 'a little fiery' after three bogeys on her front nine holes, turned it around enough on the back nine to build a three-shot lead heading into Sunday's final round at the Kankakee Elks Country Club -- about an hour south of Chicago. She carded an even-par score of 72 that included four bogeys and four birdies to stand alone at 138 (-6).
Three players are tied at 3-under 141. Alena Sharp of Hamilton, Ontario, moved onto the leaderboard with a score of 3-under 69, while Lisa Chang of Los Angeles fired a 2-under-par round of 70, and Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand carded a round of 1-under 71.
'It was definitely a challenge today, but even when I was a couple of shots over par, I was still right there,' said Castrale, of Palm Desert , Calif. 'Nobody went crazy deep today.'
With afternoon winds picking up, players wrestled with approach shots and club selection on the already tricky greens of the 6,257-yard course. When Castrale bogeyed holes No. 3 and 4, she found herself in a four-way tie for the lead with Julie Tvede of Copenhagen , Denmark , Natalie Wong of Montebello , Calif. , and Nirapathpongporn. With her bogey on the seventh hole, Nirapathpongporn grabbed the lead, while others stumbled on the front nine.
But Castrale fought back with a birdie from 6 feet on the 10th hole to regain a share of the lead with Nirapathpongporn, then drained a 5-footer for birdie on the 11th hole to take a one-shot edge over the former Duke star. But that lead was short-lived when she bogeyed No. 12 with a missed par putt from 6 feet and once again, drew even with Nirapathpongporn for the lead.
'I knew there were birdies out there,' said Castrale, who won last week's tournament in Indiana . 'It was definitely a day to hang in there.'
Castrale regained the lead outright with a birdie from 12 feet on the 14th hole, then gave herself an additional cushion when she rolled in a 10-footer for birdie on the last hole -- staying just ahead of the field on a day when scores rose and fell with regularity.
Starting the day at even par, Sharp jumped into the hunt with a second-round performance that included seven birdies and four bogeys. She used 26 putts to claw her way into contention.
'I just kept going because I knew the scores would be higher out here today with the wind,' said Sharp, 24, in her second season.
Chang was totally unaware of her position in the field after she opened with bogeys on two of her first three holes, then rattled in four birdies to finish tied for second.
'I'm not a big leaderboard watcher, so I was surprised at where I stood at the end of the day,' said Chang, 25, now in her fourth season on the Futures Tour. 'It feels good.'
Nirapathpongporn was the player who began the day with the most momentum, carding birdies on the first and fourth holes and saving par from 15 feet on the second. But when she could only par the next 12 holes, the Futures Tour's top-ranked player was scratching her head with bewilderment.
'I could have gotten frustrated, but Chris [McCalmont, her caddie] said, 'Never get frustrated with a par today,' which proved to be right,' said the Thai player. 'To finish at 1 under today, you think it's ho-hum, but it's a good score. This course is tough to begin with, but when you add the wind, it makes it a little tougher. You just have to play really smart.'
Playing in Nirapathpongporn's group today was Jin Young Pak of Kang Leoung, Korea, who scored her first career hole-in-one. The rookie used a 7-iron to ace the 161-yard sixth hole. It was a smart club choice for the player who won the season's opening event in Lakeland , Fla. Unfortunately for the three players in her group straining to see her shot land on the green, she said, 'Nobody could see it. Just the people at the green.'
Heading into Sunday's final round, Sun Young Yoo is alone at 142 (-2), while tied for sixth at 143 (-1) are Kristy McPherson of Conway, S.C., Lori Atsedes of Ithaca, N.Y., Dana Lacey of North Beach, W. Australia, and Anna Rawson of Adelaide, Australia.
Eighty-two players made the 36-hole cut at 151 (+7).