ROGERS, Ark. – That was the question when the day started but University of Arkansas junior Gabriela Lopez answered that convincingly with seven birdies and a round of 65 Saturday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G.
The Mexico City native not only made the cut in the field of the best women’s golfers in the world, she posted a career-best tying round of 65, going six-under for the day and tying for the third-best round Saturday. Lopez tees off at 12:05 p.m. Sunday in the final round.
Lopez hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and birdied six of her first 10 holes in the afternoon. With an averaged driving distance of 270.00 yards, Lopez got the ball close and her putter was hot in the early stages of the round.
Lopez shot 73-65=138 and is tied for 32nd overall in the field of 144 players. She is well inside the cut of two-over and moves on to Sunday’s final round. Lopez also made the cut on a sponsor’s exemption last year. She is the only amateur in the field.
Lopez opened her day on the 10th hole and posted back-to-back pars to start her round before jumping on the birdie train that had the LPGA Tweeting about her.
It started on hole 12, a par four 394-yard hole that allows the gallery of fans to be within touching distance of the players as they tee off. Lopez’s tee shot was good to the middle of the fairway and her second shot was well beyond the hole but she drained the long putt moving to one-over for the tournament.
After a par on 13, Lopez tallied back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th holes, the fifth and sixth holes of her round. The 14th hole is a long, 549-yard par five and again Lopez’s tee shot was placed perfectly on the fairway to get her started. One of the signature holes at Pinnacle Country Club, No. 14 plays uphill and over the water with a large spraying fountain. Many players lay up close to the edge of the water hitting their third shot over and on to the green.
Lopez went for it in two and landed her second shot long of the pin to the big part of the green leaving her about a 60-foot putt. She rolled in close on her third shot and tapped in for birdied to finish.
The trio of players made their way to No. 15, the island green near the clubhouse next. Lopez was first off the tee and hit her tee shot about three feet from the pin but the ball spun back and left her about eight feet away from the hole. She read the putt perfectly and dropped it in for the birdie. Lopez moved to one-under for the tournament and three-under on the day.
After a solid par on No. 16, Lopez moved to the #LoudestHoleOnTour, No. 17, a par three into the heart of the stands with the rowdiest crowd at the course. Before teeing off, Lopez slipped into a tee-shirt with “Wooo Pig Sooie” on it and then ripped her first shot to six feet. The crowd exploded and Called The Hogs as she walked up the fairway.
One the green, Lopez calmly sank the birdie putt and threw her ball into the crowd. They serenaded her with another Hog Call as she walked off the green.
Now two-under for the tournament and four-under on the day, the confidence was evident as Lopez strung together three consecutive birdies on Nos. 17, 18 and 1. The long 18th hole up to the clubhouse gallery saw her get to the green in three as her third shot spun back leaving her the five-foot birdie putt. Fans again cheered her on with shouts of “Wooo Pig Sooie” when she left the green.
The players moved on to No.1 where Lopez was strong off the tee to the edge of the fairway. Her second shot gave her the birdie opportunity as she laid the ball in close to the hole.
Lopez would then post five consecutive par holes as her solid round continued on the front side of the golf course. She added her final birdie of the day on No. 7, a par five, 520-yard hole with a lot of trees. In fact, her second shot hit the trees on the left side of the fairway but the ball punched through and kicked out to the edge of the first cut.
From there, Lopez had a great chip onto the green about 12 feet from the pin. The shot was low and on a rope to avoid the low hanging trees. She hit the long putt for the birdie moving to five-under for the tournament and seven-under for the day.
Lopez gave a shot back on the eighth hole when her par putt slide by to finish her round six-under and move to four-under for the tournament.
University of Arkansas sophomore Samantha Marks also played in the second round on Saturday. Marks struggled on the first nine holes (the back nine of the course) but rallied playing the front nine one-under for the day. She posted rounds of 74-75 in her first appearance in the event.
Former Razorback Stacy Lewis had to finish Friday’s round that was suspended due to weather and darkness and play 18 more on Saturday but the long day didn’t bother The Woodlands, Texas, native. Lewis also shot a 65 in the second round and moved to nine-under and a tie for fourth place in the tournament.
Like Lopez, Lewis was five-under on the back nine and birdied four of her final holes on the day. Lewis tees off at 1:53 p.m. Sunday in the final round.
For more information on Arkansas women’s golf, follow @RazorbackWGolf on Twitter.
INSIDE THE ROPES
- Ties for third-best round of the day with a six-under 65
- Ties her career-best round with 65
- Moves to four-under for the tournament
- Makes the cut for the second consecutive year
- Sunday tee time is 12:05 p.m. with Katherine Kirk and So Yeon Ryu
- Round had seven birdies, including three in a row
- Hit 17 greens in regulation
- Second consecutive year to make the cut
- Ties for third-best round of the day with a six-under 65
- Is tied for fourth overall, four back of the leader
- Has a 2:05 p.m. tee time Sunday playing with Na Yeon Choi and Anna Nordqvist
- 74 players made the cut, which fell at -2 (140). Notables who missed the cut were World No. 1 and recent KPMG Women’s PGA Champion Inbee Park, Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, former Walmart NW Arkansas Champions Yani Tseng and Ai Miyazato.
- The final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G will begin at 9:20 a.m. on Sunday, June 28. Live television coverage on the Golf Channel will air from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST.