Australian number one Minjee Lee surged into the halfway lead in the women’s Oates Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Links near Melbourne on Friday.
The 21-year-old from Perth shot a flawless second round of six-under 67 on the Beach Course for a total of nine-under-par, to remain bogey-free through 36 holes.
She holds a three-stroke lead ahead of Marianne Skarpnord from Norway, Swedish pair Caroline Hedwall and Jenny Haglund and 17-year-old amateur Tze-Han Lin from Chinese Taipei.
Lee said: “I holed a couple more putts, but I did miss a couple more greens today, so I made a few more up and downs today than yesterday.”
The world number 20 enjoyed strong home support as she fired six birdies, on the second, fifth, seventh, 14th, 15th and 18th holes.
“It’s different from any other tournament that we play, so yeah, it’s just really nice to see everybody around,” said Lee, who watched her brother Min Woo hit a tee shot as he played in the men’s Vic Open, being played concurrently over the same golf course.
Lee won the 2014 Oates Vic Open as an amateur at the age of 17 and has since gone on to win three titles on the LPGA Tour, at the 2015 Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC, 2016 LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY and Blue Bay LPGA in China.
She said: “I’m just going to do what I’ve been doing and hopefully more putts will drop for me and you know, just play the wind. I guess if the wind gets up and then I’ll just play everything that’s in my control.”
Skarpnord was also greeted like a local. She and her fiancé, Richard Green, who is also playing this week, won the women’s and men’s titles in 2015 and share a home at 13th Beach.
She said: “This kind of feels like my home club now. I live just 300 metres from the clubhouse and I play here all the time when I’m here. And to be fair, if I’m going to win a tournament this year, this will be it.
“I’m happy with the score but it wasn’t pretty. I took the chances I had and I saved some really good pars. My putting saved me today a few times. If I didn’t putt well today I probably would have been over par. I have to say that I didn’t play that good.”
On a day of wall-to-wall sunshine, Lee and Skarpnord played in the more favourable morning conditions, before the breeze picked up in the afternoon.
Hedwall, Haglund and Lin were out in the worst of the windy conditions and Haglund said: “It was a tough day out there, but I played really well and I hit the ball well. I’m really pleased with my day. The whole game was good and I also putted well. I haven’t been playing on grass lately. I’ve been at home in Sweden for the last two weeks and chipping on mats, so my short game needs some improvement, but I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Lin is hoping that it will be third time lucky, as she has missed the cut in the tournament at the last two times of asking, but she has since honed her skills on Melbourne’s sandbelt courses.
She said: “We’ve been working a lot with some Golf Australia coaches and they’ve been helping us with the strategy and low shots into the wind.”
Her namesake, Xi Yu Lin, from China, (above), lies a stroke further back in outright sixth place on five-under-par, with England’s Georgia Hall and Australian Stephanie Na in a share of seventh place.
Early in the day, Carmen Alonso of Spain boosted her score with a hole-in-one at the seventh hole on the Beach course, using a pitching wedge to get into a share of 15th position, alongside the first-round leader, Beth Allen.
The Oates Vic Open is the only golf tournament of its kind around the world, with the men’s and women’s fields competing on the same courses, at the same time, for an equal share in the prize money.
Those unable to make the trip will be able to watch the weekend’s action either on television or via the live stream on the official websites, YouTube and Facebook LIVE.