Mariah Stackhouse moved into position Saturday to make a run at winning her first LPGA title.
It would be historic as no African-American has won on the American-based women’s tour since it was founded in 1950. Stackhouse and Cheyenne Woods are the only African-Americans with tour membership this year.
Stackhouse, 25, who made a name for herself helping Stanford win the NCAA title four years ago, says she can’t allow herself to think beyond the shot that will be in front of her come Sunday at the ShopRite Classic.
“When you're on the course, that kind of stuff just isn't in your mind,” Stackhouse said. “You're playing in windy conditions out here. Makes judging approach shots tough. Every single shot, all I'm concerned with is getting that number right, putting the right club in my hand and executing a solid shot.
“There's no time for your mind to wander to any other things, until the round is up.”
There is hard work left to do as Stackhouse will have to overtake “Hot Six” to win. That would be Jeongeun Lee6, who is living up to her nickname after winning the U.S. Women’s Open last week. Lee6 is going for a wire-to-wire victory at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club’s Bay Course.
With wind toughening conditions, Lee6 grinded out a 2-under-par 69 on Saturday. That left her at 10 under overall, one shot better than Stackhouse (67) and two better than Lexi Thompson (70), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (68) and Ally McDonald (67).
Althea Gibson became the first African-American to play on the LPGA in 1964. She also came closest to winning. She tied for second with Sandra Haynie after both lost a playoff to Mary Mills at the Len Immke Buick Open in 1970.
Stackhouse is looking to turn around a rough start to this year in a big way. She has missed eight of 10 cuts, though she feels like she is playing a lot better than that.
“Putting has been the issue, and right now it's not an issue,” Stackhouse said. “I've been hitting the ball well, for at least the last two months or so, which has been extremely frustrating, because I've given myself plenty of opportunities and haven't gotten, barely, a putt to fall.”
Stackhouse takes some good memories into the final round. She tied for seventh at ShopRite a year ago, her best LPGA finish. She did so playing alongside Annie Park, who won.
“I watched Annie drain putts from all over the green,” Stackhouse said. “That’s what I’m seeing out here this week. I’m putting the best that I’ve putted all year right now, and it’s because I’m just seeing Annie dropping them from everywhere last year. So, that’s good. That’s my last memory of this golf course.”