KINSTON, N.C. — Alexa Pano made a huge run during the second round of the Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.
The rookie shot an 8-under 63, moving her to 13 under through 36 holes at Kinston Country Club. Pano recorded six birdies and one eagle on Friday and has been trying to prioritize under-par holes this week.
“I knew the scores were going to be really low on this course, so I’m looking at every hole as if it’s a birdie hole,” said Pano. “I’m making sure I’m giving myself good opportunities off the tee and into the greens and trying to birdie as many as I can.”
This will be the sixth made cut of Pano’s debut season, and it’s her first time holding a solo Epson Tour lead. Recently, Pano teed it up in the U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica, which she said has helped shape her mindset heading into this week.
“I definitely learned a lot at the U.S. Women’s Open that I’m putting towards this week,” said Pano. “I’m just trying to do better than I did there and make as many birdies as possible.”
Pano holds a two-shot lead over round-one leader, Gabriella Then.
“I’m going to just keep doing what I’ve been doing,” said Pano. “I’m going to stay consistent with my game plan and try to make some more putts over the weekend.”
Gabriella Then sits alone in second place, after shooting a 2-under 69. She recorded five birdies and is now 11-under through two days.
“I feel like I’m hitting the ball pretty well and really maintaining the consistencies,” said Then. “I think that I’m just going to keep being aggressive tomorrow and hopefully more putts will fall.”
She plans to focus on herself and keep her game in the moment.
“I’m just focusing on each shot,” said Then. “I’m not really paying attention too much to what’s happening on the leaderboard.”
Two strokes behind Then, tied for third, are Xiaowen Yin and Auston Kim, sitting at -9 heading into the weekend.
Yin opened her round with a birdie on No. 1 and added three more on Nos. 6, 8 and 11. She also recorded two eagles on Nos. 7 and 12 to sign for a 6-under 65.
Kim closed out her front nine with two bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17. Those holes sparked motivation, and she went on to fire off four consecutive birdies from No. 18 to No. 3. She added two more, carding six total on the day, and signed for a 3-under 68.
“I was two-over through eight and on my ninth hole, it was a par 5 thankfully, I was able to switch it on from there,” said Kim. “I just got really aggressive, but smart and focused on my process.”
Lucy Li rounds out the top-5 in fifth place at -8 after shooting a second-round 68 that was highlighted by four birdies. A total of 64 players made the cut at -1.
Isabel Amezcua (-5, T16) on being in the top-15 and making the cut as a Blue Cross NC exemption:
“It’s amazing. It’s a great feeling walking off knowing that I have a chance against some of the best players. It’s also exciting knowing that I have the opportunity to be here, and I’m just excited for the weekend.”
Daniela Darquea (-6, T11) on jump from T42 on Thursday to T11 on Friday:
“Of course, it’s something really positive. I feel like my game has been really strong the past few events. After last week, at the US Open, it was really frustrating. Now I feel like I can shoot low and move up the leaderboard. It’s a good feeling.”
Auston Kim (-9, T3) on being near the top of the leaderboard during her Epson Tour debut: “It feels great. It’s a really big confidence booster. Making all these putts and hitting all of these good shots, but also struggling, it shows that I have room for improvement but I’m also up there.”