Boutier battles wind for four-shot Annika lead

Celine Boutier shot 6-under 66 in the second round of the Annika Invitational.

Celine Boutier shot 6-under 66 in the second round of the Annika Invitational.

Girls Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Nicole Morales2014NY69.32
2Andrea Lee2016CA69.82
3Bethany Wu2015CA69.83
4Megan Khang2015MA70.01
5Lilia Vu2015CA70.53

1.) French connection

The round of the day Sunday at the Annika Invitational belonged to Celine Boutier, of Montrouge, France. Boutier put together seven birdies and just one bogey for a 6-under 66 on a windy day at Reunion Resort’s Independence Course to take a commanding four-shot lead on Maria Torres. Boutier stands at 7-under 137 for the tournament, thanks in part to a hot putter.

Boutier is a member of the French national team, and is here this week with the team’s coach, Edward Brechignac. Teammate Manon Gidali (81, T-60) also is playing this week, and two other players are here to practice. Boutier is one of 10 international players who were extended invitations this week

“I managed all my shots so it was easier but I think the conditions were more hard,” she said of Sunday's round.

This isn’t the first time the French national team has hit up the U.S. junior golf scene. They also were at the Polo Golf Junior Invitational in 2010 and the Junior Orange Bowl.

“To play with another player, to play other girls, other conditions, the grass is different, everything is different – it’s good for her to learn new things,” Brechignac said.

2.) No place like home

Even though Shannon Aubert is originally from France, the Annika Invitational always feels like home to her. Aubert plays and practices out of Reunion Resort, which means her teacher, Henry Reis, has been on hand this week for quick fixes. For Saturday’s round, that came in the form of a putting tip.

“Henry (Reis) saw me on the putting green and told me straightaway what to fix,” Aubert said. “I needed more rhythm and to speed it up. When I applied that to the course it really showed off and my putting was 10 times better.”

Aubert shot a 2-under 70 and is even for the tournament. She’s part of a three-way tie for fifth with second-round leader Marijosse Navarro and Aurora Kan.

3.) A repeat isn’t out of the question

Defending champion Victoria Tanco moved five spots up the leaderboard Sunday, despite following an opening 72 with a second-round 74. As the wind increased, so did many players’ scores.

Tanco is nine shots off the pace, but if she could catch Boutier in the final round, it would be her fifth career invitational victory and her second-consecutive win at the Annika.

The other past champion in the field this week, Simin Feng, is at 7-over 151 and in a tie for 35th.

4.) That’s more like it

Speaking of leaderboard climbing, reigning U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Doris Chen did the same in Round 2. Chen overcame a double bogey at the par-4 fourth, and two holes later went on a three-birdie run.

Chen, playing in her first tournament since the Junior Orange Bowl in December, finished at 2-under 70 to get to 2 under for the tournament and is in third. Like Tanco, she also managed to hold it together in the wind, and said she wasn’t fazed as the breezes turned into gusts.

“It’s not that bad for a Florida wind,” she shrugged.

5.) Getting her strength back

Kendall Prince is just getting back into competitive mode after stepping away from the game for much of November because of an illness. Prince, of Lake Oswego, Ore., had to put away the sticks last fall as her body tried to reject her liver, and even a trip to the putting green left her feeling “horrific.”

Four months after the worst of the pain, Prince said her doctors believe the ordeal was caused by a bad reaction to acne medication.

“They’re not really going to ever know but they think that’s why,” she said. “I’m really thankful to be out here.”

Prince, who will play for Ohio State in the fall, hit the weight room hard after getting back on her feet in order to get her distance back. She had to sit out of the Arizona Silver Belle, the Harder Hall and the Sally while she regained her strength, but after a second-round 72 – which leaves her T-3 entering the final round – it’s clear she is back to full form.

“I’ve worked really hard and I got my distance all back,” she said. “I’m playing well and I’m feeling good.”

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