Tight Race in Futures Tour

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Futures TourMERRILLVILE, Ind. -- Three first-tournament rookie pros fresh out of last weeks NCAAs and the Big Ten Conference Championship will show up on the first tee tomorrow for bragging rights once again. Only this time, theyll all take home a paycheck and the knowledge that the college-to-pros transition is complete.
 
And while Ohio States Allison Hanna leads the $70,000 New Innsbrook Country Club Futures Golf Classic four days after registering as a new professional and two rounds into her professional career, she will be bird-dogged by old Big Ten rivals Malinda Johnson of the University of Wisconsin and Allison Fouch of Michigan State. Hanna, of Portland, Ore., posted a 2-under-par 70 today to take a one-shot lead of 137 (-7) over Johnson of Eau Claire, Wis. Johnson fired a 68 for a two-round total of 138 (-6) for a one-stroke advantage over Fouch of Grand Rapids, Mich. Fouch also carded a 4-under 68 today for a 139 total.
 
Its going to be the Big Ten Championship all over again, said Fouch, 23, who played the No. 1 position for the Spartans and faced Hanna all season. Allison Hanna has waxed me time and time again this season, but I think its great to show this week that the Big Ten produces some good golfers.
 
Indeed it has. All three of the players were named to the 2004 All Big Ten Conference Team. Fouch and Johnson faced off for a two-hole playoff last fall in college golf and Fouch won. Hanna, the 2004 Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, typically beat everybody and finished 12th individually at NCAAs. Fouch finished 16th.
 
Weve played a lot of golf together and this has made the transition out here a lot easier seeing these guys, said Johnson, 22, a lefty who played in the top spot for the Badgers.
 
But with their college days now behind them, the trio will launch a new rivalry on the Futures Tour, each with a chance to win their debut tournament in the same region where they have spent the last four years. Innsbrook Country Club, playing at par 72 and 6,067 yards with an interesting combination of six par-5s, six par-4s and six par-3 holes, will be the newest venue.
 
But a course with so many par-5s is ripe for the picking and the three new pros will not only have to pay attention to each other, but to those lurking just behind. Futures Tour rookie Seul Ki Kim of Incheon, Korea, and Tour veteran Yvonne Cox of Charleston, W.Va., each posted 3-under-par scores of 69 today to share fourth place at 140. Second-round leader Aram Cho of Seoul, Korea, is one shot back at 141.
 
Its anybodys ball game out here, said Cox, still looking for her first Futures Tour title in her fourth season.
 
How can three raw rookies still sporting college colors with no professional experience charge to the front of the 144-player field? And if one of them wins on Saturday, it will be the second straight year in which a collegiate player made her debut professional tournament her first Futures Tour victory. Pepperdine University grad Katherine Hull of Australia did it last season in Wisconsin and repeated with a second win the next week in Ohio.
 
They are probably so pumped, said Tour veteran Teresa Ishiguro of Ione, Calif. When you first come out here, your focus is so much sharper. The longer you stay, the more you have to find something to keep your candle burning.
 
They just played in the NCAA Championship last week and theyve been playing college golf all season, added veteran Lori Atsedes of Rochester, N.Y. Theyre ready to play out here and this is just a different place to do it.
 
Six players turned professional heading into this weeks event, presented by Horseshoe Casino. But with five different players winning each of the five tournaments this year ' all international pros ' the rookies still like their chances.
 
We all believe we can do this, said Hanna, 22. Yeah, there will be some nerves tomorrow, but this is what I play for. I want to win the tournament. I want to do my best. And I know the three of us are going to have some fun.
 
Seventy-six players in the 144-player field made the 36-hole cut at 152 (+8).
 
Saturdays final round will begin at 8 a.m. from the first tee only, with the leaders going off the first tee at 11:45 a.m.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The New Innisbrook C.C. Futures Golf Classic