INDIANA — Dottie Ardina zoomed to her best start this season with a four-under-par 68 Thursday to come just one shot shy of the lead in the Four Winds Invitational at South Bend Country Club.
Ardina, 29, scored in Hole Nos. 2, 5, 8, 15 and 17, while bogeying the 13th to join a big group behind Michaela Finn who fashioned out a stellar round of 67.
She putted just 23 times to join the big group of chasers that include Lakareber Abe, Katherine Smith and Gigi Stoll of the United States, Kyung Mi Kim of South Korea, and Angelica Moresco of Ireland.
Pauline del Rosario, who finished tied for 12th here last year, is at joint 30th along with yet another Filipina Clariss Guce following identical 71s.
After 18 holes of play, the top of the leaderboard is as tight as it can get with 12 players within a shot of the lead and 28 players within three shots of the lead.
The Swede Finn finished birdie-birdie to cap off her five-under round, with 12 players sitting just one stroke behind her. Finn made six birdies on the day, the only mistake coming on her 16th hole.
The mistake late in the round was unfortunate, but the bounce back from Finn showed she was still on top of her game, and the mistake was just a fluke.
“I was really just hitting them pretty close and taking advantage of the nine and 6-footers that I had,” Finn said.
“I was able to reach almost every par 5, so I took advantage of that, too. I planned to hit away from the dangerous spots on the tee shots and was able to just give myself looks into the green.”
The game plan was simple for Finn, hit away from dangerous spots and make the most of her opportunities. With ball striking at a premium at South Bend Country Club because of the small greens, Finn took advantage when she hit the dance floor.
“My first plan is to try and hit some fairways,” Finn said.
“From there, it is just trying to convert on the opportunities you have. The greens are pretty small out here, so really any putt you have, you’re not going to be too far off.”
One of the players in the group of 12 is LPGA Tour veteran Alena Sharp.
Sharp has already secured a win earlier this year at the Champions Fore Change Invitational and is looking to add another trophy to her trophy case this week.