ONEIDA, Wis. — Yealimi Noh began her week trying to qualify for the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. She played the opening two rounds alongside an amateur whom she beat by 73 shots. And now she goes into the weekend paired with the No. 1 player in women’s golf.
Noh believes six months of hard work are paying off. She just never imagined a week like this.
Sung Hyun Park, whose victory last week in Arkansas returned her to No. 1 ranking in the world, twice ran off four straight birdies Friday for a 10-under 62 to break the tournament’s 36-hole scoring record and take a one-shot lead over Noh into the weekend.
Park was at 17-under 127 on a Thornberry Creek at Oneida course that last year yielded a winning score of 31-under par.
Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 64 and was two shots out of the lead, and the Thai suggested that a course giving up so many low scores — the cut was at 5-under 139 — might be what makes it difficult.
“Actually, I feel like it’s really tough for me because I felt like every hole, everybody have the chance to make birdie,” she said.
Park made so many she lost track.
Starting with the par-5 13th hole, she ran off four straight birdies. She closed out her round on the front nine with four straight birdies.
“I made four birdies in a row twice today. I honestly didn’t know,” Park said through a translator. “When I was 8 under today, I thought I was 7 under.”
Mina Harigae (63) and Tiffany Joh (66) were at 14-under 130, while Shanshan Feng of China had a 67 and was four shots behind.
The biggest surprise was Noh, mainly because of the schedule she keeps.
Coming off a superb summer of amateur golf last year — she won the Girls Junior PGA, the U.S. Junior Girls and the Canadian Women’s Amateur in three consecutive weeks — Noh decided not to play at UCLA and turn pro, even though she had no status on any tour.
She has received two sponsor exemptions on the Symetra Tour. She played a Korean LPGA event. And she has been trying to Monday qualify for LPGA Tour events, without much success. She finally got through this week, and is making the most of it.
“It means so much,” Noh said. “All the hard work, all the months of just like not knowing where I’m going to play and what I’m going to do, just finally playing here and playing well is really like a dream come true.”
Those dreams did not include a weekend tee time in the final group with Park, the No. 1 player in women’s golf.
“Definitely not. I did not think about that,” Noh said. “But no matter who I play with and how they’re playing, anything, I just don’t want to think about anything else. Just focus on my score and my game. I don’t want to think too much.”
She also had to keep her eyes off the game next to her.
Presley Cornelius is a 20-year-old amateur who was given a sponsor’s exemption into the tournament as a member of the Oneida Nation. She had told the Oneida website at the start of the week that she was proud to represent the tribe and “hopefully, it will give me an inside look of what could be and how this works.”
She opened with a 96, and Friday was even more difficult.
Cornelius had every score on her card from a 3 to a 9. She had two triple bogeys, two quadruple bogeys and a quintuple bogey 9 on the par-4 fourth hole. It added to a 105, putting her at 55-over 201 for the two days.