George Leads Futures Tour

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Futures TourAVON, Conn. -- When asked to sum up her second round today in the GMAC Futures Golf Classic, leader Stephanie George had a one-word answer: 'Amen.'
 
It was a hard-fought afternoon with swirling wind and rock-hard greens. Like most of the rest of the field, the native of Myerstown, Pa., was left guessing about her club selection. She carded two birdies and a bogey to finish the day at one-under-par 70 and at 137 (-5) for the tournament. The back nine consisted of 'nine very hard pars' with par saves all the way to the 18th green.
 
But for the second consecutive week, George finds herself staring at a potential win at the halfway point in the Futures Tour season.
 
'All day, I was trying to maintain my ground,' said George, who, as defending champion, finished as runner-up last week in Decatur, Ill., with a final-round 66. 'I wasn't trying to play safe today, but I didn't want to do anything stupid, either.'
 
George began today's round at Blue Fox Run Golf Course as the co-leader with Valerie Osborn of Kildeer, Ill. But Osborn lost steam and fell off the leader board with a second-round 79. Veteran Michelle Murphy of Tacoma, Wash., who started the day one shot behind the leaders, birdied three of her first six holes to put pressure on the leaders, charging ahead with a two-shot lead.
 
But Murphy also struggled in the wind on the back nine and posted three bogeys to fall behind George by two strokes at day's end. Her even-par score of 71 and three-under total of 139 for 36 holes didn't quite look as heroic as the effort felt.
 
'I don't feel like I played that bad,' said Murphy, 37, who played on the LPGA Tour for three years. 'I made some putts, but it doesn't show because I'm not under par.'
 
Murphy and George both said there were points in their rounds today when they were indecisive with club and shot selection. For Murphy on the 13th hole, she didn't make up her mind on her approach, hit it fat, then faced a cliffhanger for bogey. It was that kind of day on the par-71, 6,154-yard course.
 
But some players rode the wind better than others. Kylie Pratt of Mackay, Australia, playing in the morning rain, shot the day's low round of four-under-par 67 to move into a share of fifth place. Top-ranked Lindsey Wright of Albury, Australia fired a two-under 69 to climb into a share of third. And Meredith Ward of Crystal Lake, Ill., and rookie Jeanne Cho of Orlando, Fla., finished the day tied at two-under 140, in third place.
 
Even the local amateur exemption Marika Lendl, daughter of tennis great Ivan Lendl, produced solid play on a day when many players moved backward. The resident of Goshen, Conn., fired a second day of even-par 71 to stand at 142 for two rounds in her first professional tournament. The 14-year old played the front nine at one-over par, but rallied on the back nine with a one-under-par 34 to repeat her even-par performance on the course. Lendl drained a 60-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole and a 40-footer on the 18th to become the youngest player in history to make the 36-hole cut in a Futures Tour event.
 
While the wind played havoc with scores all day, at least one other player rode the wind effectively. Heather Angell of Winston-Salem, N.C., scored an eagle-2 on the 11th hole. Angell holed out from the fairway from 100 yards with a pitching wedge.
 
With another big Sunday approaching, George and Murphy know they won't be the only players hoping for an easier day in the final round. George has never held the lead going into the final round. Murphy hasn't won since 2002. And the undulating greens at Blue Fox Run promise to keep the field a little on edge for a full 54 holes.
 
'I have a great opportunity, a chance to win this tournament,' said Murphy. 'I like the position I'm in.'
 
And George, still 'trying to be a little bit more sure of myself,' hopes she can close the book on Sunday with one more 'Amen.'
 
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