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Small-town Olson on verge of big-time victory at Evian

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Amy Olson is the pride of Oxbow, N.D.

It’s a tiny city of 305 people, according to the most recent census.

“No gas station, no grocery story, nothing too glamorous,” Olson once said of what it was like growing up there. “I’m a country girl. I don’t like big cities.”

This self-described small-town girl, however, is on the verge of becoming a really big deal in the world of women’s golf.

With a 6-under 65 Saturday, she took the lead going into the final round of the Evian Championship. It was her second straight 65, moving her to 14-under overall, two shots ahead of Sei Young Kim (64) and four ahead of Mo Martin (69).

Inbee Park (67), Georgia Hall (68) and Angela Stanford (68) are five back.

Olson, 26, wasn’t among the household names expected to step up and help the Americans avoid being shut out in the majors this year, but those in the game aren’t surprised to see her with her first lead in a major.

Olson, formerly Amy Anderson, won the U.S. Girls’ Junior as a 17-year-old and went on to win 20 titles at North Dakota State, breaking Juli Inkster’s record for collegiate victories.

And while Olson has yet to win an LPGA title, she showed signs earlier this year that she’s got a game and disposition that may be even more suited to majors than regular tour events. She played her way into the final pairing with Pernilla Lindberg at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration.

Olson watched Lindberg show her how it’s done in majors, even though Lindberg had never won one before ANA.

Like Lindberg, Olson is looking to break through and make her first LPGA title a major. It just might end up being the theme of this year’s majors. Georgia Hall did the same last month at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

“Watching Pernilla, I think she bogeyed the first hole and she stayed in it,” Olson said. “She stayed patient and some birdie putts fell, but she didn't try to force anything and didn't beat herself up over a lost shot.

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“Watching that really inspired me. I think at some point you're going to face adversity out there, and how you respond is the most important thing.”

Olson, who graduated with a degree in accounting and went on to become a CPA, is running some terrific numbers up the leaderboard at Evian. Back to back 65s are rare in majors.

“I think the biggest thing that I like about major championships is how it forces you to bring your best game,” Olson said. “You can't really fake it. You can't get away with poor shots.”

Olson has her brother, Nathan, on the bag as caddie this week. Her husband, Grant, is the linebackers coach at Indiana State.

Will she be nervous Sunday?

Yes, she said, but the ANA experienced helped, and so does a very grounded nature she got growing up in Oxbow.

“I'm very content with my life and where I am,” Olson said. “Obviously, winning adds greatly to it, but not as much as most people would think.”

Olson will have to hold off some formidable opposition. She will go out in the final grouping with Kim, who may be the best player in the women’s game today without a major. She’s a birdie machine with seven LPGA titles. Olson will also go off with Martin, who broke through to make her lone LPGA title a major at the Women’s British Open in 2014.

Park, trying to win her eighth major championship title, will be in the group right in front Olson.

What’s Olson’s game plan?

“Honestly, just staying patient and recognizing that if my moment is going to come, it will come,” she said. “If it doesn't, I'll be OK.”