KINSTON, N.C. — After 54 holes of play at Kinston Country Club, Alexa Pano remains on top at the Carolina Golf Classic. Pano opened her round 3 under through four holes and finished her day bogey-free with six birdies. The rookie looks to secure her first pro victory in tomorrow’s final round.

Leaderboard | Final-round pairings

“I’m just excited, mainly. This is my first final group of being pro,” said Pano, “It should be a great battle out there, but I’m just excited for the final day and hopefully to make a lot more birdies and keep it going.”

The Florida native’s third round of 6-under 65 was partly sparked by her grouping. She says they all pushed each other, making as many birdies as possible.
    
“It was a pretty fun day,” said Pano. It’s nice when you can play well and the other people in your group can play well too.”
    
Pano holds a two-stroke lead over fellow rookie and No. 2 in the Ascensus Race for the Card, Lucy Li.
    
Like Pano, Li also opened her round on fire. She carded five consecutive birdies from No. 3 to No. 7, which is something she doesn’t think she’s ever done before. The front nine birdies played a big role in her round, but they weren’t what kept her going.    

“I think, especially on the back nine coming down, I had quite a few par saves that I think were really important to keep the momentum going,” said Li.

The rookie sits alone in second place at 17 under through three days in Kinston, N.C.
    
Two strokes behind Li, in solo third, is Gabriela Ruffels at 15 under. She recorded eight birdies on the day and signed for an 8-under 63. The rookie has three top-20 finishes during her debut season and is excited to head into the final round in the leader group.

“I haven’t really been in contention this whole year,” said Ruffels. “It’s always nice to be in contention, and scores are low out here, so it’s nice to be mixing it with some of the top girls out here.”

Xiaowen Yin held her spot in fourth place, shooting 5-under 66 during the third round. Yin carded a bogey-free front nine, as well as seven birdies on the day. Her mentality moving forward is to focus on the now.

“I won’t think too much [about tomorrow],” said Yin. I’ll just play my golf and play my shots.”

Bailey Tardy, Fernanda Lira, and Daniela Darquea sit in a tie for fifth at 11 under. A total of 59 players shot even-par or better.
    
QUICK QUOTES   
Britney Yada (-10, T8) on having Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina sponsor the event:   
“We appreciate [the sponsorship] so much every year. Blue Cross NC does a lot for us, and I think last year Blue Cross was my best finish as well, so maybe I’m just a real big fan of Blue Cross.”
    
Lucy Li (-17, 2nd) on her mindset heading into the final round:   
“I think it’s just really important to be able to treat every shot, every day, every round the same. I’m just going to keep doing that and try to forget about today. Tomorrow’s a new day and there’s lots of more birdie opportunities out there.”
    
Gabriela Ruffels (-15, 3rd) on her third round:   
“It was good. I played with Lucy today, who shot 62, so it was kinda going back and forth with birdies. It was good, I think I was 4-under, 4-under on each nine, so it was just solid out there to say the least.”