Juli Inkster, captain of the 2015 U.S. Solheim Cup team, began tournament week with a surprise for golfers competing at the Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout: a private dinner with former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.
Inskter, 54, has continued to stun potential team members with her play through the first two rounds at Las Colinas Country Club. The LPGA Hall of Famer, who last collected a tournament title in 2006, kept herself in contention to break a nine-year victory drought with Friday’s second-round 69 that moved her to 7 under for the tournament.
The oldest player in this week’s field, Inkster finds herself one stroke behind the teen phenom holding the lead, Canada’s Brooke Henderson (8 under).
Henderson, 17, fired a second-round 65 to take the 36-hole lead with several of Inkster’s Solheim Cup hopefuls, including Fort Worth residents Angela Stanford (4 under) and Gerina Piller (1 under), lurking near the top of a crowded leader board for the ages. All ages.
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Fellow contenders have been impressed by Inkster, who hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation during Friday’s round. Just don’t try to convince the captain that she’s the golfer to beat in crunch time Sunday.
“I feel good about my game. I’m just not counting my chickens before they hatch,” Inkster said. “I’ve got a lot of golf left ... and everybody is kind of bunched up. They wanted a shootout. That’s probably what they’re going to get.”
Henderson, who posted a bogey-free round, scrambled well and buried six birdie putts — including a 40-footer at No. 16 — to grab the 36-hole lead at an LPGA event for the second consecutive week.
She said she will lean on lessons learned at last week’s Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, where she finished third, while trying to seal the deal in Irving.
“I’m excited to be in the same position,” Henderson said. “Hopefully, it will just turn out a little better.”
Also within striking range is Stanford, who needed 31 putts (five more than Thursday) while posting a second-round 71. She likes her weekend chances at four shots from the lead.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to beat 10 under out here,” she said of Sunday’s likely winning total.
Still in the mix to post that number is Lydia Ko, 18, who had to make a par putt on the final hole to reach the weekend rounds.
Ko, the top-ranked player in the women’s world golf rankings, rebounded with a second-round 68 to extend her perfect streak of cut survival (51 of 51) as an LPGA participant.
More important, reaching the weekend assures her of a paycheck in a week when she vowed to donate her tournament earnings to help earthquake victims in Nepal.
As she surveyed her final putt, Ko said: “I thought, ‘If I miss this putt, that’s going to suck. I told myself, ‘I need to make this for Nepal.’ Luckily, it dropped.”
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760