GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Jeongeun Lee6 is a major sports star in her native South Korea.
She’s becoming a pretty big deal around here, too.
Lee6 finished with a flourish to take the second-round lead of the $1.75 million ShopRite LPGA Classic by one shot over Mariah Stackhouse on Saturday afternoon.
Lee6 birdied the 17th hole and eagled the 18th to shoot a 2-under-par 69 for a 36-hole total of 10-under 132 on the Bay Course at Seaview Hotel and Golf Club.
“I am so glad that a lot of Korean fans are here supporting me and cheering for me,” Lee6 said. “I’m just really happy with that.”
Lee6, who won the U.S. Women’s Open last week, is quickly becoming one of golf’s best stories. The LPGA rookie signed plenty of autographs and posed for multiple pictures with fans after her round.
Lee6 is trying to join Meg Mallon (2004), Se Ri Pak (1998), Jane Geddes (1986) and Louise Suggs (1952) as the only LPGA players to follow a U.S. Women’s Open win with a victory in the next tournament.
About 75 players were expected to shoot even-par or better to make the cut to the Classic’s final round Sunday. The leaders are expected to tee off at about 11 a.m. Sunday. At least a dozen players will be within four shots of Lee when the final round begins.
The wind gusted throughout Saturday, making the par-71, 6,191-yard Bay Course play much tougher than it did during Friday’s first round. The wind rattled the flag stick on the 18th green as Saturday afternoon progressed.
Several players had their troubles. Pornanong Phatlum, who shared the first-round lead with Lee6, shot a 6-over 77 and will begin Sunday eight shots out of the lead.
The 23-year-old Lee6 has a number in her last name because when she joined the Korean LPGA Tour three years ago she was the sixth player with the same Jeongeun Lee name. Six turned out to be her favorite number, so she added it to her last name.
On Saturday, Lee6’s round appeared headed in the wrong direction when she bogeyed the 14th and 15th holes. Lee6 blamed her putter and then gave herself a pep talk that obviously worked.
After a par at No. 16, she birdied the par-3 17th when she sank a 16-foot putt.
Lee6 played the 507-yard, par-5 18th with the wind at her back. She hit her second shot — a 184-yard 6-iron — to within 3 feet of the cup and easily made the putt for eagle.
“I wanted to finish strong, and I did,” Lee6 said. “I’m pretty satisfied with that.”
Stackhouse also has a notable story. She is trying to become the first black golfer to win an LPGA event. Stackhouse won’t allow herself to be consumed by the chance to make history.
“When you’re on the course, that kind of stuff just isn’t in your mind,” she said. “You’re playing in windy conditions out here. All I’m concerned with is putting the right club in my hand and executing a solid shot. So there’s no time for your mind to wander to any other things.”
A 2014 Stanford graduate, Stackhouse has struggled this year, missing the cut in eight of 10 events before the Classic.
But she has a history of playing well on the Bay Course, having finished tied for seventh at ShopRite last year.
On Saturday, Stackhouse shot a 4-under 67 to go with her opening round 66. Stackhouse, 25, said the Bay Course favors her game because she’s accurate off the tee. What she did Friday and Saturday and hasn’t done much this season until the Classic was sink putts.
“My mantra is hit it in the fairway, hit it on the green and go make some putts,” she said. “I’m going to stick to that (Sunday).”
As for Lee6, it’s a fair bet to say she’ll have even a few more fans Sunday. She hopes to entertain them with another low round.
“I’m sure it will be a little more crowded,” she said. “My goal is to have a good time with everyone.”