Leaderboard Tightens Up at Futures Tour Event


Futures TourLIMA, Ohio -- It's still anybody's tournament to win as the leaderboard at the $70,000 Lima Memorial Hospital Futures Classic is jammed once again. The trio of Jenny Gleason of Clearwater, Fla., Julie Turner of Skaneateles, N.Y., and defending champion Danielle Downey of Spencerport, N.Y., are locked for the lead at 136 (-8) after 36 holes.
And at only one shot back at 137 are Sarah Lynn Johnston (67) of St. Charles, Ill., and Perry Swenson (70) of Charlotte, N.C. Johnston's hot putter needed only 24 strokes, while Swenson hit 16 greens and threatened to break away all day. But that pair is trailed by the trio of Chiharu Yamaguchi (67) of Tochigi, Japan, Alena Sharp (69) of Hamilton, Ontario, and Stephanie George (71) of Myerstown, Pa. -- all tied at 6-under-par 138 at Lost Creek Country Club.
'There are a lot of great players within two shots of the lead,' said Swenson, a rookie from the University of Texas playing in her third tournament as a pro. 'Really, anybody is in it because the scores are so tight.'
And tight it was all day with more lead changes than Tour veteran Kelly Cap cares to remember. Cap charged to the lead with consecutive birdies on holes 11 and 12, but tumbled down the leaderboard with a triple-bogey-7 on the par-4 15th hole. Cap encountered a tricky downhill lie that squirted under a tree. A flop shot and three putts later from 50 feet, and suddenly, Cap had left the door open.
'It was kind of a kick in the gut today,' said the player from Youngstown , Ohio , who dropped back to 140 (-4) with her 1-over-par round of 73 today.
But while Cap was struggling to dig herself out of trouble, Gleason was gunning for a number to put on the leaderboard. The second-year pro posted a 67, rained in three consecutive birdies on holes 11, 12 and 13, and then, as if to tell her peers that 'the little kid' means business, the petite pro drained a 25-foot putt on the 18th hole for the clubhouse lead.
'I knew I was playing well and the cup looked really big today,' said Gleason, 24, who played college golf at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro . 'Even though this course is short, you have to hit it well off the tee. You have a lot of wedges in your hands out here, but you still have to dial them in.'
Downey and Turner, who grew up playing amateur golf together in upstate New York , had their own little match play today in the same pairing. The two chased each other throughout the round, with Downey scoring birdies on two of her last three holes and Turner rolling in birdie putts on 17 and 18. Both posted scores of four-under-par 68.
'It was fun to play with Danielle because we had never played together as professionals until this week,' said Turner, 27, in her fifth Futures Tour season.
But make no mistake. The field knows this year's title is up for grabs and Sunday's final round is an invitation for a slugfest. Only three shots off the lead is a hard-chasing group of four players tied at 139 (-5) that includes Nicole Castrale (70) of Palm Desert, Calif., who is seeking a third consecutive win this season, former Ohio State All-American Allison Hanna (70) of Portland, Ore., 2004 winner Naree Song (71) of Seoul, Korea and rookie Becky Berzonski (67) of Erie, Pa., a recent grad of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Birdies are abundant on the 5,973-yard course that features tight fairways and small greens. And eagles are always accessible to big hitters who manage themselves wisely, as evidenced by the two opening shots of rookie Ashley Prange of Noblesville, Ind., who went eagle-eagle, fired a 6-under-par 66, and charged into a nine-way tie at 4-under-par 140. With 25 players scoring in the 60s today -- including fourth-ranked Kyeong Bae of Seoul , Korea , who matched Prange's low round of 66 -- low scores tend to shift the leaderboard on a regular basis.
Still, Downey is hoping her best round is yet to come on Sunday.
'To win this in 54 holes would prove a point,' said Downey , who won the 2004 rain-shortened Lima tournament in 36 holes. 'I don't want to be a one-tournament wonder.'
Seventy-nine players made the 36-hole cut at 147 (+3), the season's lowest cut.
Sunday's final round of the 54-hole event will begin at 8 a.m., off the first tee only. The leaders will tee off at 12:20 p.m.