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Cheyenne Woods leads by one at Aussie Masters

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Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand shakes hands with Emiliano Grillo of Argentina on the 18th green during day 3 of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on May 23, 2015 in Virginia Water, England. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)  - 

Cheyenne Woods battled through nerves and a rough start to take the sole lead Saturday at the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters.

With a 2-under-par 71, Woods moved to 12-under 207, one shot ahead of South Africa’s Stacy Lee Bregman (72) and two ahead of 17-year-old Australian amateur Minjee Lee (69), winner of the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior and back-to-back winner of the Australian Women’s Amateur (2012-13).

“I think getting through today was huge for me, mentally, especially,” said Woods, who is Tiger Woods' niece. “I am proud of how I was able to fight through today, and tomorrow is just going to be another day to get through. I’m taking it one hole at a time and just staying patient.”

Woods, 23, made three bogeys and a birdie over her first five holes at Royal Pines in Queensland, Australia. She rallied on the back nine in the wind, making birdies at four of the final five holes.

“It was definitely a roller coaster today, up and down all day,” Woods said. “But, like I said, I feel like I played well, I just missed a few putts here and there.

“Overall, I hit the ball well. I stayed steady throughout the day. I didn’t give up, so if I play like this tomorrow, I’d be happy. I feel happy with how I finished today.”

The Australian Ladies Masters is co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf. Woods is seeking her first professional title outside an American mini-tour event.

Woods won the Atlantic Coast Conference title by seven shots while at Wake Forest. After turning pro in 2012, she won a Sun Coast women’s mini-tour event, but she has struggled in her bid to play the LPGA. She failed to advance through LPGA Q-School qualifying the last two years. She did qualify for the LET last year, ending her rookie season 78th on the Order of Merit. This week marks the first time she has held the 54-hole lead in an LET or LPGA event.

Woods was asked what a victory would mean to her.

“It would be a huge accomplishment, playing well this week,” Woods said. “I’m already happy with the way it’s been going, but to have that win would just be a cherry on the top, especially to start off my year.”

And what does she believe it will take to win?

“It comes down to the fire in your belly and fighting for every shot, especially on the final day,” she said.