Jiyai Shin takes unlikely share of lead in Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship

PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif. (AP) — One of Seri’s Kids had an unlikely share of the lead in the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship after a windy Saturday afternoon at Palos Verdes Golf Club.

Jiyai Shin — the 35-year-old South Korean star who last played a full LPGA Tour schedule in 2013 — shot a bogey-free 8-under 63 on the course overlooking the Pacific Ocean, then ended up tied for the lead hours later when defending champion Ruoning Yin closed with a triple bogey.

Pak is one of the most influential players in LPGA history, a pioneer for South Korean players to follow her path. Shin, who now plays the Japanese and Korean tours to be closer to home, received a sponsor exemption in the event.

“Seri is my idol, still,” Shin said, “When I first time playing LPGA, they called (us) Seri’s Kids. This is her first hosting event, so I feel so proud. Just glad to playing here.”

A stroke ahead entering the par-4 18th, Yin drove to the right into thick rough under trees, with more trees ahead. Instead of hitting sideways to the fairway, the 21-year-old Chinese player tried to punch a low shot through an opening in the trees toward the green, but the ball struck a trunk and bounced back into more trouble.

Seven strokes behind second-round leader Malia Nam entering the day, Shin was tied with former UCLA player Alison Lee (68) at 9-under 204.

“I’ve never won out here before and that’s something I’m still looking for, my first victory on the LPGA Tour,” the 29-year-old Lee said. “It would be really cool to win at home in front of all my friends and family.”

The fourth-ranked Yin had a 71 to drop into a tie for third at 7 under with second-ranked Nelly Korda (67) and former University of Southern California players Nam (72) and Gabriela Ruffels (65).

“Overall, it’s a good day,” Yin said. “I rate 8 our of 10 today because I hit a lot of really solid shots. Just had some bad luck on the last hole.”

Korda won the LPGA Drive On Championship in late January in Florida in her last event.

“I would say the toughest day with the wind and a little bit softer conditions with the rain we had in the morning,” Korda said. “I would say the wind was a huge factor.”

Shin had five straight birdies on Nos. 3-7 and played the last four in 3 under with birdies on Nos. 15, 16 and 18. A two-time Women’s British Open winner with 11 LPGA Tour victories, the 5-foot-2 player is one of the most accurate hitters in women’s golf — a good fit for the hilly, tree-lined course with small greens.

“Well, the first thing is you can see the how beautiful ocean view here, so we need to be focusing on the golf,” Shin said. “And then, actually, the setting is not for the long golfer. … I’m not a long hitter, so when I practice round, `OK, I might have a chance (to win) on this golf course.’”

The 24-year-old Nam — from Hawaii — is making her second career LPGA Tour start.

“It was definitely a struggle today with the wind, but I think it’s tough for everyone,” Nam said. “I just tried to minimize the mistakes and keep moving forward.”

Ruffels, from Australia, had five straight 3s in a front-nine 31. She birdied Nos. 2-5, all par-4 holes, parred the par-3 sixth and birdied the par-5 seventh.

“I putted really well out there today,” Ruffels said “I kind of knew that it wasn’t going to be a very low scoring day with the wind.”


AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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