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On the edge of history

Cindy Lacrosse
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RABAT, MOROCCO - MARCH 19: Peter Lawrie of Ireland plays into the 18th green during the second round of the Hassan II Golf Trophy at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam on March 19, 2010 in Rabat, Morocco. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)  - 

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – It’s a giant task.

So large that if Cindy LaCrosse pulls the improbable upset Sunday at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, women’s golf will have its version of Jack Fleck.

The game will have its most stunning upset since Fleck marched out of the cornfields of Iowa to defeat Ben Hogan at the ’55 U.S. Open.

LaCrosse, 24, stepped out of golf’s shadows and into its brightest spotlight with her play Saturday at Locust Hill Country Club.

She played her way into a final pairing of a major championship and now faces the challenge of trying to come from five shots back to knock off the No. 1 player in the Rolex world rankings.

At No. 168 in the world, LaCrosse faces the daunting challenge of trying to stop Yani Tseng from making history. Tseng is on her game and aiming to do something Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg and Mickey Wright never did. She’s aiming to do something no champion’s ever done. She’s bidding to win her fourth major championship by the age of 22.

Moments before the Sunday tee times were set, LaCrosse was asked what it would be like to play with Tseng?

“It would be pretty cool,” LaCrosse said. “I am going to focus on what I need to do and see what happens. I had a really good time today.”

LaCrosse had a good time making a strong Saturday move while paired with Paula Creamer for the first time. She said the galleries were by far the largest she’s ever played in front of, and yet LaCrosse was unbowed. She rode a hot putter to a 3-under-par 69 and into a tie for second with Morgan Pressel. LaCrosse outplayed Creamer, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champ, by three shots.

“It was nice having people clap for you when you walked up to every green,” LaCrosse said. “Then I realized it was more for Paula than for me.”

Five of the top eight players on the leaderboard have won majors. LaCrosse? Before this week, she had only played in one major.

Nobody expected LaCrosse to play her way into this position so quickly, even with her credentials as last year's Futures Tour Player of the Year. Even LaCrosse didn’t expect this.

“I would like to say, `No, it doesn’t surprise me,’ but I don’t know,” said LaCrosse, a University of Louisville graduate from Tampa, Fla. “It’s kind of cool I’m in contention.”

Technically, LaCrosse isn’t a rookie, but she’s playing in just her 13th LPGA event and in her first full season on tour. She’s never recorded a top-10 finish in an LPGA event. Her tie for 11th at the ShopRite Classic three weeks ago is her best LPGA finish.

“I like the confidence she’s playing with,” said Mike Berger, LaCrosse’s caddie. “She just doesn’t get rattled.”

LaCrosse said she doesn’t try to look too far ahead in life.

“I guess kind of every step I’ve taken in golf, I had no expectations going into it,” LaCrosse said. “In college, I was a walk-on, then started playing really well. Same thing going out to the Futures Tour. I didn’t know what to expect. That was kind of my advantage, that I didn’t have anything to lose.”

LaCrosse has some good New York mojo going for her. Two of her three Futures Tour titles last year came in the state of New York. She caddied for her father, Doug, when he played in the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester three years ago.

“I definitely like New York,” LaCrosse said. “I don’t know what it is.”

There’s some good help in LaCrosse’s corner. Her father was a three-time Florida State Amateur champ who turned pro at 50 and played some on the Champions Tour. Her coach is Sean Foley, the same swing coach who works with Tiger Woods. Cindy said her father is friends with NBC TV analyst Gary Koch, who helped steer LaCrosse to Foley at the start of this year.

“My dad and I talk after every round,” LaCrosse said.

What was his advice for the weekend?

“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” papa LaCrosse told his daughter. “Remember where you came from and how you got here.”

That advice has LaCrosse on the edge of history.