Former USC player Malia Nam leads at Palos Verdes in 2nd career LPGA Tour start

PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif. (AP) — Malia Nam took a one-stroke lead into the weekend in just her second career LPGA Tour start, shooting a 2-under 69 on Friday in the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship at Palos Verdes Golf Club.

One of seven former University of Southern California players in the field at the scenic course overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the 24-year-old Nam — from Hawaii — played more than 100 rounds on the layout during her time with Trojans.

“I’ve seen every single inch of this golf course, good and bad,” Nam said. “It’s funny, because in college I never really played well here. This is actually the first time that I think I shot consecutively under par, so I’m a bit surprised myself.”

Playing in the final group of the day to tee off on No. 10, Nam pulled even with defending champion Ruoning Yin and Madelene Sagstrom with a birdie on the par-3 sixth and took the lead with a birdie on the par-5 seventh. She parred the final two holes to finish at 8-under 134.

“It’s definitely a pretty surreal feeling seeing my name on the top of the leaderboard, especially with all the best players in the world.” Nam said. “I always knew that I can play out here, but I didn’t expect it to be so quick to see my name up on the top of the leaderboard.”

In her LPGA Tour debut in late January in Florida, she tied for 57th in the LPGA Drive On Championship.

On Friday, she rebounded after struggling in the middle of the round. She had a double bogey on the par-4 15th and a bogey on the par-4 first.

“Got a really bad break,” Nam said about 15. “The ball was like up behind the lip so I had to chip backwards.”

Yin closed eagle-birdie-birdie for a 65. The 21-year-old Chinese player began the spree with a 5-iron to 6 feet for the eagle on No. 7 and ran in a 45-footer on the par-4 eighth.

“On the front nine, the fairways are wide open and I can smoke it whenever I want,” Yin said.

Ranked fourth in the world, Yin followed her breakthrough LPGA Tour win last year at Palos Verdes with a major victory at the KMPG Women’s PGA.

Sagstrom had three late birdies in the afternoon session. The 31-year-old Swede birdied the par-5 14th and 16th and reached 7 under with a birdie on the par-3 17th.

“Happy I hung in there,” Sagstrom said. “I was steady, putting well on the greens, so I feel good about my game.”

She won the 2020 Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio for her lone tour title.

Rose Zhang (68), Leona Maguire (65) and former UCLA player Alison Lee (70) were 6 under. The 20-year-old Zhang won the Mizuho Americas Open last year in her first professional start.

Linn Grant (68) and Lauren Hartlage (71) were 5 under.

Second-ranked Nelly Korda had a late double bogey in a 67 that left her 3 under. She won the LPGA Drive On Championship in her last event.

First-round leader Maude-Aimee Leblanc followed her opening 64 with a 79 to make the cut on the number at 1 over. The only player in the field with a bogey-free opening round, the Canadian had nine bogeys in the second.

Seri Pak is the tournament host for the first time. Pak is one of the most influential players in LPGA history, a pioneer for South Korean players to follow her path.

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