Kang Holds Slim Lead in Tampa

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Futures TourOLDSMAR, Fla. -- By her own admission, Jimin Kang thought winning on the professional level would be a lot easier than it has been since she won her pro debut at the 2002 M&T Bank Loretto Futures Golf Classic.
 
Since then, it went downhill and I lost my confidence, said Kang, 24, of Seoul, Korea, the leader of Tampa Bays Next Generation Futures Golf Classic. Maybe I thought it would be easy. Well, its not.
 
But Kang made her second round look like a Saturday stroll with a 5-under-par 67 on the 6,366-yard South Course at East Lake Woodlands Golf & Country Club. She birded two holes on the front, chipped in for birdie on the 13th and rammed in an 11-footer on the 18th hole for a one-shot lead of 138 over compatriot Seon-Hwa Lee of Chonan, Korea and Meredith Ward of Crystal Lake, Ill. Lee and Ward are tied for second at 139, firing 67 and 69, respectively. First-round leader Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio is one shot back at 140.
 
I would say my game is still under construction, said Kang, who played collegiately at Arizona State University. I like my touch, but my ball doesnt know how to find the hole.
 
Her putter connected for 28 putts, however, as the long-hitting second-year pro scrambled on the greens. She sunk three of 11 makeable birdie putts within 13 feet and clawed her way into the lead with her last stroke of the day to stay one ahead of Lee, who finished second at the Lakeland Futures Classic two weeks ago, and Ward, who tied for fifth in Lakeland.
 
Im more comfortable this week, said Lee, 18, a Futures Tour rookie who has won twice on the Korean LPGA Tour. I was just having fun.
 
Lee converted her good time at East Lake Woodlands into 29 putts and 16 greens in regulation. Her irons were accurate and her putter found its target from 20 feet twice in a day that included seven birdie putts. She posted a 4-under-par 32 on the front nine and birdied three of the last four holes.
 
I am ready to win, said Lee, of her chances at this weeks $65,000 event. I watched the leader board and it made me play better.
 
Lee and Kang are both sponsored by powerful Korean business conglomerate CJ Corporation and will battle for honors as the events top Korean player. But Ward, a second-year pro seeking her first professional win, says she is ready to become the seasons first American winner.
 
She spent the off-season analyzing bank reports and working as a teller. She also visited sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella, who helped her with a different numbers game and to see the logical progression of her short professional golf career.
 
He helped me see things on a whole new level and to think like a champion, said Ward, who carded four birdies and one bogey in her second round. I have prepared myself properly, so winning seems like the next logical thing.
 
Of course, Kang also is hoping for the logical progression of her career and an end to her winless drought. And Lee wants to make her mark in America for the first time. That chance will come for all three in Sundays final round.
 
Seventy-three players in the 144-player field made the 36-hole cut at 153 (+9).