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Kaufman eyeing title and more equality at Vic Open

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Something feels right about Kim Kaufman atop the ISPS Handa Vic Open leaderboard.

She willed her way to this special event.

She fought like hell to get there.

Unsure late last season whether she would even have status to play, with health issues and too many missed cuts making it feel like a lost year, Kaufman won back her playing privileges at LPGA Q-Series.

She has come a long way in miles and form to support what the Vic Open represents.

Now, halfway through the tournament, Kaufman, 27, is in position to make her first LPGA title something special.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Vic Open

“I’ve been pretty outspoken about coming down here,” she said.

She has been outspoken about how important it is for LPGA pros to support the idea that men and women can play the same courses at the same time for the same amount of prize money.

Disappointed that just four of the top 50 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings were going to the Vic Open, Kaufman bristled when she read speculation why.

“Principles are nice, but you can’t eat them,” she read on Twitter in a post defending players who aren’t playing. “Long way to go for the tour’s smallest purse.”

For Kaufman, that myopic view fails to see the bigger picture of what stands to be gained growing the seeds being planted in Victoria.

“There’s always a hundred reasons not to go,” Kaufman tweeted back, “but sometimes there is one big reason TO go. The Vic has given us a big reason, and that’s all that really matters.”

The $1.1 million purse is something Kaufman wants to build as much as she wants to win.

A passion for the cause seems to be fueling her play.

A 7-under-par 66 on the 13th Beach Golf Links’ Creek Course left the American at 13 under overall, two shots ahead of Japan’s Haru Nomura (67) and three ahead of Australia’s own Su Oh (68).

“We all want more prize money and equal prize money,” Kaufman said. “Maybe it’s not $10 million, but it’s someone who’s starting to do this, and I think it’s awesome.”

Whether she wins or not, Kaufman’s amid quite the comeback.

With glandular fever plaguing her over two seasons, she slumped miserably in 2018. She missed 12 cuts in her last 14 starts.

“At the beginning of December, I saw a blood doctor,” Kaufman said. “Honestly, it changed my life. I’m so thankful for my health, so thankful I feel good.”

Feeling good about her game, too, and the work she’s doing with her coach, Todd Kolb. She’s attacking. In two days, she has made 13 birdies and an eagle against two bogeys.

“I really felt more comfortable out there today than I ever have in that position,” Kaufman said.

Back in Clark, S.D., every TV might be tuned to Golf Channel this weekend. That’s where Kaufman was raised. There was one grocery store, no stoplights and barely 1,000 residents living there when she was growing up.

Kaufman’s mission, larger than her own hopes and dreams, may win her a legion of new fans as passionate about the Vic Open’s cause as she is.