Hurst in position to make run at first LPGA victory

Vicky Hurst plays her second shot on the fifth hole during the second round at the 2012 U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis. on Friday, July 6, 2012.

KOHLER, Wis. – It seems like Vicky Hurst has been making the LPGA rounds forever. Lest you forget, she’s only 22.

Shocking though that number may be, there’s one that’s more unbelievable: 80. That’s the number of LPGA starts Hurst has made since earning her LPGA card at the end of 2008, and not one has resulted in a win. It seems she’s inching closer.

Hurst held at least a share of the lead through much of the second round at Blackwolf Run. She three-putted the 18th for bogey to finish with a 2-under 70 and 3 under for the tournament. It left her in the top 5 on the leaderboard as the afternoon wave hit the course.

Despite flying a little under the radar, Hurst is a player who was cheered for on Friday by many dads toting young daughters. She’s the poster child for Symetra Tour success after setting the single-season earnings record on the developmental tour in 2008: $93,107. Hurst won five times on the then-Futures Tour to earn her card.

This season has been streaky. She’s missed the cut in five of 12 stroke-play starts, but interspersed a run to the semifinals at the Sybase Match Play Championship and a near top-10 finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship (T-11).

“Playing well at the Kraft – especially going into Sunday and playing well – being at the top of a leaderboard at a major, I am feeling a little more comfortable being at the top of a leaderboard, and going into the weekend,” Hurst said post-round on Friday.

Attribute part of Hurst’s success to beginning work with instructor Gary Gilchrist at the start of the year. He’s the same teacher used by World No. 1 Yani Tseng. At first, working with Gilchrist was about getting her head in the right place. Said Hurst at the Kraft, “For me, I know myself and I know my game. When I’m staying smart and consistent, I’m going to reach all my goals.”

They also tackled putting. Gilchrist showed Hurst she was lined up a foot to the left – it was one of the first game changes he made. Hurst also recently put work into her lag putting. In each of the first two rounds at the Women’s Open, she has taken 31 putts.

“I’ve been working a little bit out here especially with the speed, so I’m very happy with how my work has paid off,” she said. “My lag putting has really improved from last week, and going into this weekend is still what I’m going to focus on.”

To say Hurst isn’t particularly excitable doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a pulse. And that means she can’t help but get a case of the butterflies at the scenario in which she finds herself. In four previous Women’s Open starts, she hasn’t finished higher than T-41.

“I’m staying pretty steady out there, but I have to pretty much take it all in when I’m walking up 18 and seeing myself at the top of the leaderboard,” she said. “It’s really cool, especially this being the Women’s Open.”

Though the American flag appears next to her name on that board, Hurst’s Korean heritage (from her mother Koko) makes her a Se Ri Pak’s groupie of sorts. Hurst was 8 years old when Pak won here in 1998, which puts it within the realm of her memory. Early in the week, Pak reminisced on that win as the birth of her career.

Hoisting the Women’s Open trophy would have a similar effect on Hurst.

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