3 of the 4 2nd-stage qualifying tournaments have been completed over in Japan. In Ibaraki, Jae Bae annihilated the field, going -11 over 54 holes for a wire-to-wire victory. In Kyoto, Sun Ju Ahn did the same, although she was only -7 in the end (Yuki Sakurai ended up in 9th, 11 shots back, while Mai Arai was the lowest-ranked player of those who finished +11, in 35th place--but still just barely made the cut). In Hyogo, a Japanese player was medalist, as Shiho Toyonaga finished at -7. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ended up 11 shots back, but still was the 9th-ranked player coming out of that qualifier. 2 shots further back is 15th-ranked Ritsuko Ryu, who will also be moving on to the 3rd stage. But it's all over for Riko Higashio, who blew up with an 80 today and finished +15 for the tournament (#52 in the field). Only 1 shot kept her from moving on--ouch!
There's still one more round to be played in Gunma tomorrow, so Na Ri Kim will need to keep playing steady golf to avoid Higashio's fate. After a 72 today, she's T17 at +1, but only 5 shots off the lead. Of course, she's also 5 shots away from missing the cut, as well. Good luck to the 21st-ranked LPGA Senior Standout tomorrow!
[Update 1 (11/6/09, 3:56 am): Na Ri Kim did it--she finished 7th in the Gunma qualifier, after a bogey-free 70 brought her to -1 through 54 holes. She ended up 7 shots behind the 2nd Japanese player to earn medalist honors in the 2nd stage, 渡辺聖衣子 (don't ask me!). The 3rd stage will be played in Tochigi and Mie prefectures on November 24th through 26th; each field is expected to have 102 golfers, although players like Higashio will be on a waiting list and may still get in. So even if she gets in by some miracle via others' WDs, she'll have to compete against LPGAers Teresa Lu, Meena Lee, Young Kim, and Shanshan Feng (and perhaps others who finished #21-50 on the 2008 LPGA money list and #11-20 on the 2008 LET money list that the JLPGA didn't see fit to publicize last month). Even so, it won't be so large a number that it makes finishing in the top 80 or so overall all that difficult. 102 players are expected to shoot it out in the final stage in early December.]