Japan teen phenom Nasa Hataoka moved into sole possession of the lead at LPGA Q-School Friday in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Hataoka, just 17, shot 3-under-par 69 on LPGA International’s Jones Course, moving her to 14-under 202, one shot better than American Jaye Marie Green (67).
“It is cool to see my name at the top of the leaderboard,” Hataoka told LPGA media through a translator. “I don’t want to get greedy, but I want to get to 20 under. I really want to work on my course management over the final two days.”
Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open last month, becoming the first amateur and youngest winner of a Japan LPGA Tour major. She turned pro a week after the victory. Her mother named her Nasa after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because she wanted her to “dream big.” Green, a three-year LPGA veteran, was impressed with Hataoka’s game.
“She’s about to be 18 [on Jan. 13], and I thought she was my age,” Green said. “She handles herself very well. She’s just like a little silent assassin. She hits it so good, and she has a good head on her shoulders.”
Green was medalist at LPGA Q-School in 2013. Carolyn Hill is the only player to win Q-School more than once. Hill was medalist in 1980 and ’83, when the final stage was presented more than once a year.
“My goal is definitely to win this,” Green said. “Now with me and Nasa so close, I can focus on trying to beat her, instead of looking at the whole top 20. It will definitely help take my mind off the top 20.”
The low 20 players after 90 holes will earn full LPGA status for next year, with players who finish 21st through 45th and ties earning partial status. The 156-player field will be cut to the low 70 and ties going into the final round. Everyone who makes the cut will receive at least Symetra Tour status.
Iceland’s Olafia Kristinsdottir (67) is third, five shots back.
American Sadena Parks (67) is six shots back, tied for fourth with England’s Mel Reid (75), Taiwan’s Ssu Chia Cheng (69) and Latvia’s Krista Puisite (70).
Beth Allen, who is on the verge of becoming the first American to win the Ladies European Tour’s Order of Merit, moved into a tie for 10th with a 68.
India’s Aditi Ashok (71) is tied for 27th.
American Mariah Stackhouse (72) is tied for 34th and amateur Bronte Law (73), who won the Annika Award at UCLA last season as the best player in women’s golf, is tied for 43rd.