North Augustan primed to post win

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As Jessica Hoang slept on the lead Wednesday night after another strong round in the E-Z-GO Vaughn Taylor Championship, a recent brush with victory might help her in today's final round.

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Jessica Hoang (right), of North Augusta, hugs Abby Newton after the second round. Hoang leads Newton and Rachel Dai by three with a round to play.  Zach Boyden-Holmes
Zach Boyden-Holmes
Jessica Hoang (right), of North Augusta, hugs Abby Newton after the second round. Hoang leads Newton and Rachel Dai by three with a round to play.

Just three weeks ago, the rising junior at North Augusta High School held a share of the lead down the stretch in another American Junior Golf Association event.

"I was leading the tournament through the 16th hole and just messed up the last two holes," Hoang said of the final round of the Golf Pride Junior Classic in Pinehurst, N.C.

"Now, I've just got to try to relax and not be as nervous."

A second consecutive round of 1-over-par 73 at Jones Creek Golf Club put Hoang in prime position to capture her first AJGA title today.

At 2-over, she holds a three-shot advantage over Rachel Dai (76), of Suwanee, Ga., and first-round leader Abby Newton (77), of Katy, Texas, neither of whom could keep up momentum from Tuesday's first round.

Eunice Yi, of Evans, is tied for seventh at 11-over after rounds of 76-79.

"It's kind of nerve-wracking," Hoang said of seeing herself on top of the leaderboard. "But it's still fun because I get to play with the leader group.

"I just want to try and relax through it and play my own game."

In the boys division, Hudson, Fla., junior Austin Padova struggled through the front nine Wednesday.

However, the first-round leader recovered by shooting 3-under on the back for 71. It put him at 4-under overall, two shots ahead of Richard Hubbard, of Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Padova and Hubbard are threatening to turn it a two-man race -- they lead a pack of four players at 2-over.

Padova, a rising senior, is coming off a tie for fourth at his last event -- the Burgett H. Mooney Jr. Rome (Ga.) Classic in mid June.

Meanwhile, Hubbard's best AJGA finish is a tie for sixth in which he led after the first round. He said he'll be drawing on that experience today.

"I thought I hit the ball really well today," the rising junior said.

He admits that Wednesday's round was more "boring" than Tuesday's, though he shot 71 both days.

He planned to simply play solid golf and get himself in position to contend in today's final round.

"That's what I really wanted to do," Hubbard said Wednesday. "Come out today, focus on a good round and be in the hunt tomorrow."

Davis Parker, of Augusta, led the local contingent after two rounds. After opening with 77, he recovered with 73 to move into 12th place at 6-over.

For Hoang, two early birdies were offset by a double bogey on the par-4 seventh hole.

Instead of letting it get to her, she steadied her game and played relatively error-free from that point on.

"I tried to play smart the rest of the round," she said.

Reach Justin Williams at (706) 868-1222 ext. 116 or justin.williams@augustachronicle.com.


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