By SCOTT COTTOS
SYLVANIA — If everything had gone the way Victoria Elizabeth originally hoped, she wouldn’t be playing in the Marathon Classic this weekend.
A parental decision dictated that Elizabeth switch from one sport to another, but she grew to love and excel at golf. Now she’s a second-year LPGA Tour member at age 22 and she’s one of two players who list Ohio as their residence — top-ranked Stacy Lewis was born in Toledo but grew up in Texas — to have made Friday’s cut and earn the right to continue competing today and Sunday.
Elizabeth, of Dayton, and Marissa Steen, of Cincinnati, enter today’s play tied for 31st place with 140 strokes apiece, putting them 2 under par.
Emma Jandel, also of Dayton, scored nine strokes worse on Friday than on Thursday and was cut at 145. Bowling Green’s Caroline Powers, like Steen, a player on the LPGA’s development Symetra Tour, missed the cut after rounds of 75 and 73, and Wadsworth’s Kathleen Ekey left the grounds after posting scores of 76 and 73.
Elizabeth is making strides on the LPGA Tour this year after having to regain her card through Qualifying School in the wake of a difficult rookie season. But several years ago, she hadn’t thought of spending a weekend earning money on a golf course.
“I wanted to be a professional tennis player,” she said of her youth. “But some things happened. Up until I qualified for the Symetra Tour, I think my goal was just to play college golf. Then I qualified for Symetra when I was 16 and that changed things.
“(Switching to golf) wasn’t necessarily my decision at the time, but I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”
After an even-par 71 in Thursday’s first round, Elizabeth improved to 69 Friday.
“Yesterday I was kind of off in my ball striking,” she said. “It wasn’t too bad, but I just didn’t give myself enough chances. So my goal today was just to be a little more aggressive and leave myself under the hole more. And I did that. I gave myself plenty of good chances. Consequently, I had a better round.”
Like the other Ohio residents in the field, as well as Lewis, Elizabeth is enjoying the presence in the galleries of people with whom she’s close.
“My grandparents are here,” she said. “They come to as many (tournaments) as they can. My great grandmother, my great aunt and my cousin came to see me play yesterday and they’d never seen me play, so that was really, really special. And I have a bunch of friends here as well. So it’s a really exciting week for me. My grandparents are going to be the most happy (about her making the cut). They may be more happy than me.”
The 24-year-old Steen, who played collegiately at Memphis, earned her way into her home-state tournament by winning a qualifying event early in the week.
She’s not unaccustomed to success. After all, she’s the No. 2 money-winner on the Symetra Tour with $53,896 this season. But she introduced herself to a bigger audience Thursday with a first-round 67. She dropped off to a 73, but she’s heading into the weekend happy.
“This was my main goal coming in — to get to the weekend,” she said.
Being that she’s in a position such as playing with house money, she’ll play the last two rounds with no pressure.
“I have expectations for myself, but it’s not like there’s a lot of hype around me compared to some of the other girls in the field,” she said. “So I just want to go out and have fun tomorrow and play golf because I love it.”
Jandel, a two-time Ohio Women’s Amateur champion who played at Ohio State, struggled to a 77 Friday after a first-round 68, but she planned to shake it off and move ahead.
“You can’t let yourself get down,” the 26-year-old said. “It’s not the first time that’s happened and it’s probably not going to be the last. I know I’m doing a lot of really good things, so I can’t take any negatives from today.”
The Marathon Classic is Ohio’s lone LPGA event, and Jandel, who sports a Brutus Buckeye clubhead cover, said, “It was nice to see Buckeyes all over the place.”
“It feels good to be back in Ohio, and really there’s no place I’d rather play,” she said.
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