With help from putter and background music, Mathilde Claisse retains lead at ANNIKA Invitational

Courtesy of the AJGA

With help from putter and background music, Mathilde Claisse retains lead at ANNIKA Invitational

Junior

With help from putter and background music, Mathilde Claisse retains lead at ANNIKA Invitational

Leaderboard | Tee times

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Being stuck inside in recent months due to cold weather? It can have you on opposite ends of the leaderboard.

The players in first and last through 36 holes at the ANNIKA Invitational USA have come from northern climates. First-round leader Mathilde Claisse, of Poissy, France, doubled her margin Sunday, firing a 1-under 71 at the World Golf Village’s Slammer & Squire Course to sit 4 under through 36 holes.

Heading into Monday’s final round, she leads by two. On the other side of the leaderboard, Emily Nash, of Lunenberg, Mass., fired a second-round 93 and sits in last at 39 over.

Both players have been forced to practice their games mainly indoors in recent months due to cold weather back home. But clearly it hasn’t fazed Claisse.

The conditions in St. Augustine, Fla., have been unseasonably cool, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s both days. While other competitors from warmer-weather areas have struggled to adjust, Claisse has felt just fine.

“That’s OK, the weather here,” Claisse said. “It’s colder in France.”

The nonchalance matches her scorecard. After an opening 3-under 69 that included just one bogey, Claisse played a flawless first 17 holes Sunday with a pair of birdies and the rest pars.

When she came to the Slammer & Squire Course’s par-4 18th, she had gone 30 holes bogey-free. A bogey at the last put a black mark on the round, but she’s two ahead of Frida Kinhult, of Fiskebackskil, Sweden, entering the final round.

Angelina Ye and Maja Stark are tied for third at 1 under. Lucy Li, the top-ranked player in the Golfweek/Sagarin junior girls rankings, is solo fifth at even par.

The winner this week will receive an exemption into the Symetra Tour’s Florida’s Natural Charity Classic.

Claisse has relied on her putter this week to keep her on top and in line for that invitation. The 17-year-old had been working on her stroke in recent months. Her timing was bad, causing her to get a little inside and leave putts short and right.

The cold conditions in France have prevented her from practicing on a real green for months, so when Claisse answered about when she fixed that issue with her stroke…

“I don’t know, maybe this week,” she said with a laugh.

That relaxed attitude continues to serve her well.

The South Carolina commit competed on the European Junior Solheim Cup team last year. In October, she tied for 25th at the Ladies European Tour’s Lacoste Ladies French Open. She currently ranks in the top 100 (No. 86, to be exact) in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Claisse likes to play music during golf when possible. What’s her favorite genre?

“Everything. I don’t have any type,” Claisse said.

She’ll often have a song stuck in her head while playing a tournament round, and that was no different Sunday.

As Claisse and her group were on the ninth green, she could hear Shawn Mendes’ “Mercy” playing in the background.

It was caught in her head for the entire back nine.

“It was great,” Claisse said. “It helped me between my shots not focus on golf.”

But the focus will be back on Monday. If so, the player coming from colder weather could have a statement win.

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