Simpson Out Front Field Reduced

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Ladies Professional Golf AssociationRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- There is a reason qualifying school is one of the most stressful tournaments a player can participate in. Play well, and you are one day closer to competing with the best female golfers in the world on the LPGA Tour.
 
Play poorly, and you pack your bags and head home thinking about next year.
 
Out of the 159 players competing in the second round of the LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament, more than half posted either a higher score or the same score they did in the first round.
 
Michelle Simpson was one of those players, but that is a good thing for the New Smyrna Beach, Fla. native. Simpson is in the same position she was in at the end of the first round, at the top of the leader board. She carded her second consecutive 70 and sits at 4-under-par 140 after two days of play. Simpson bogeyed her first hole with a three-putt, but then rebounded nicely with an eagle on her ninth hole and a birdie on 15.
 
Yesterday was just one of those days when you could fire at the holes, Simpson said. Today was different. I didnt have as many opportunities, but hung in there. It was a different round, but I ended up with the same score, which seems a little weird. I had some good up and downs and it was just one of those days.
The 24-year-old played collegiate golf at Florida International University where she graduated from in 2001 with a degree in sports management. She has competed on the Futures Tour the last two years and finished the 2003 campaign 66th on the money list after competing in 17 events.
 
Simpson leads Juli Hilton from Saratoga, Calif., by two shots and has a three-shot advantage over Mary Kay Marino from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mikaela Parmlid from Gothenburg, Sweden.
 
The 160-player field was cut to 78 players at 152 (+8) for the final two rounds, which will take place on the 6,290-yard Arnold Palmer course at Mission Hills Country Club.
 
Simpson didnt start playing golf until she was 15 and doesnt plan on changing her strategy over the final two rounds.
 
You cant let your guard down because anything can happen. Golf is a crazy game. Simpson said. The Palmer course may be a little bit easier (than the Dinah Shore), but this is qualifying school and any course can be dangerous. I am just going to try and play solid golf the next two days and remain patient.
 
Players competed on both the Arnold Palmer and Dinah Shore courses at Mission Hills Country Club, playing each of the courses once before the 36-hole was made following the second round.
 
The top 30 players at the end of 72 holes will advance to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., Oct. 21-24. If necessary, a sudden-death playoff will be held to determine the 30th spot.
 
The Rancho Mirage qualifier is the second of the LPGA Tours two sectional qualifying events in 2003. The first LPGA Tour Sectional Qualifying Tournament was Aug. 26-29 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla. The top 30 finishers from the California qualifier will join the Venice sectional qualifiers, current LPGA Tour members attempting to improve their status and the five players who finished sixth through 10th on the final 2003 Futures Tour money list at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.