Hole in one keeps Choi in front of the pack

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Hole in one keeps Choi in front of the pack

SYLVANIA, Ohio - Korea’s Choi Na-yeon had a hole in one in her three-under 68 Saturday as she clung to a one-shot lead over late-charging American Christina Kim at the LPGA Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.

Choi, pursuing her third career LPGA Tour win, had a hole in one with a nine-iron on the 131-yard, par-three eighth hole.

“It didn’t bounce. It just slam dunked,” said Choi, who finished the day with a 14-under total of 199. “After that, I fixed the cup.”

That briefly pushed her lead to five strokes. She also led by five after a birdie at 13, but bogeys at the next two holes and a couple more missed chances as Kim nabbed two late birdies in a 67 saw the American close in.

Kim, playing in the penultimate group, birdied 15 to narrow the gap to two shots, and sank an eight-footer for birdie at the last.

Kim said she didn’t realize how much ground she had gained.

“On 12 I was five back? I really didn’t even notice,” said Kim, who had a 54-hole total of 200. “My only thing was trying to get that damn ball in the hole.”

Choi wasn’t keeping track either.

“I didn’t even know I had a five-shot lead during the round,” she said. “I just focused on my game. I just made a couple bogeys coming in, just a couple of bad holes. I’ll concentrate on my game and play better tomorrow.”

Australia’s Katherine Hull (65), Kristy McPherson (67) and Korea’s Park In-bee (70) shared third on 203.

Choi knows what it’s like to hang on despite mid-round difficulties.

She had a seven-shot lead at the Samsung World Championship last September in the final round, lost it, then birdied the final hole for her first tour win.

“That definitely helped me,” she said. “The Samsung World Championship was the first win for me. It was really tough to get the first win. That tournament gave me a lot of confidence.”

Kim wasn’t rattled when she heard on the course about Choi’s hole in one.

“After Na Yeon made the ace, I was kind of like, ‘All right. OK. That’s awesome. But let’s just focus on trying to make your own putts now,’” Kim said.

On Sunday she’ll again try and keep the focus on her own game, rather than on Choi.

“I’m out for blood - but not necessarily anybody’s blood - other than the golf course’s,” she said of her approach to the round.

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