Se Ri Pak, a 20-year-old professional golfer from South Korea

Se Ri Pak, a 20-year-old rookie from South Korea, continued to show poise and skill beyond her years Friday as she maintained her lead in the McDonald's LPGA Championship.

With birdies on two of her first three holes, Pak never fell out of first place. And when her second consecutive outstanding round was over, Pak emerged as the player to beat entering the weekend.


Lisa Hackney, last year's LPGA rookie of the year, shot a 66 and surged into third place at 6 under par (136), three strokes behind Pak. Hackney, who tied Donna Andrews for the day's best round, has a history of playing well in majors, finishing in the top 10 in three majors last year.

The leader board had Pak; Walters, who was born in Canada, and Hackney, who is from Britain. But if Pak wins an LPGA major this weekend, the news will spread quickly in her homeland.

"If she wins this tournament, she'll be the most popular athlete in Korea, more popular than Chan Ho Park, "said Sung-Yong Kil, Pak's manager, referring to the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher. "In all the morning newspapers in Seoul, Se Ri Pak was on the front page."

After Friday, Pak should remain front-page news there. Her steady round featured four birdies and just one bogey. And once again, her length off the tee was a crucial part of her success. Pak birdied two of the three par 5's. For the tournament, she is five under on the par 5's.

Meanwhile, many of the LPGA's prominent players were far off the pace. Liselotte Neumann, the tour's leading money winner, was even par at 142, as was Michelle McGann. Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb were both 2 over, Laura Davies was 3 over, and Nancy Lopez was 4 over at 146, which was the cut. Meanwhile, Heather Daly-Donofrio, the Yale women's golf coach who shot an opening-round 68, struggled to a 76 Friday.

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