Cooper, Houston, Alberto Lead Women's Stroke Play
Cooper, Houston, Alberto Lead Women's Stroke Play Championship
KINGWOOD – Moderate conditions countered by tough hole locations tested many competitors at the Women’s Stroke Play Championship on Friday. However, Hailee Cooper of Montgomery carded a 5-under-par 68 to move into a tie for the lead with Hanna Alberto of Kingwood and Allen’s Julie Houston.
Cooper, a 2018 University of Texas commit, began her second round six shots back of the lead. A 2-over 75 in Round 1 was characterized by missed fairways and struggle to save par. Disappointed with her performance, Cooper returned to the range and took a lesson from Ron Herridge at Conroe Country Club. The late evening session seemed to be the difference on Friday. The second round for Cooper at The Clubs of Kingwood – Island Course proved seven shots better.
“I hit three fairways yesterday and hit 10 today,” said Cooper, Golfweek’s sixth-ranked junior girl in the nation. “Putts were just dropping.”
Cooper bogeyed the par-4 second hole; however, a birdie on the par-3 eighth carried her into the back nine at even-par on the day.
“I kind of struggled on the front nine,” Cooper said. “I was two-putting from short distances and I was like I need that one shot.”
Cooper’s “one shot” was an 18-foot birdie on the par-4 10th hole. She poured in another birdie from 30 feet out on the par-5 11th and followed with birdies on 14, 15 and 16. Cooper posted a bogey free 5-under 32 on her closing loop.
“I was trying to stay patient,” Cooper said. “We are all tied, so I am just going to pretend like it is a one-day tournament. You go out and try to win your group.”
The 17-year-old shares the lead with UT-San Antonio junior Julie Houston and Kingwood’s Hanna Alberto. Houston shot 1-over 74 in the second round after leading the field with a 4-under 69 on Thursday. She will have the chance tomorrow to be third UTSA Roadrunner to win a TGA event within the last week.
Alberto, a 2016 graduate of Kingwood Park High School, utilized her local knowledge in the first two rounds. The Sam Houston State sophomore carded an even-par 73 to remain at 3-under for the tournament. Alberto’s family is a member of The Clubs of Kingwood, and she said she plans to remain calm throughout the final round.
“I picture myself practicing and being relaxed as possible,” Alberto said.
The defending champion, Megan Thothong, is well within reaching distance to win back-to-back Women’s Stroke Play titles. She is solo fourth and two shots back of the leaders. Thothong sits at 1-under 145 for the tournament after rounds of 71-74.
Lucy Nunn, the University of Houston assistant women’s golf coach, is currently the low mid-amateur. She posted rounds of 74-76 and is tied for seventh place overall.
The 71-player field divides into three flights for the final round. Thirty-three players will compete in the Championship Flight, while Flights 1 and 2 will consist of 19 players each.
The final round begins Saturday at 8 a.m. For more information on the Women’s Stroke Play click here.