Japanese teen-ager Nasa Hataoka is alone at the top of the leaderboard after three rounds of Stage III of LPGA Qualifying School after firing a 4-under-par 68 Friday at LPGA International’s Jones Course in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The 17-year-old Hataoka, who won the Japan Women’s Open Championship as an amateur in October before turning pro, sits at 14-under 202 after three rounds. She is the youngest player in the field.
“It is cool to see my name at the top of the leaderboard,” Hataoka, who reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club this summer, told the LPGA website through a translator. “I don’t want to get greedy, but I want to get to 20-under. I really want to work on my course management over the final two days.”
The top 20 finishers in the Final Stage earn playing privileges on the LPGA Tour for 2017. Those finishing between 21st and 45th earn conditional status on the LPGA Tour while other players completing 72 holes are eligible for the developmental Symetra Tour.
Hataoka holds a one-shot edge on Jaye Marie Green, a 22-year-old Floridian who was the medalist in this event in 2013, but has struggled in three seasons on the LPGA Tour. Green fired a 5-under 67 on the Jones Course Friday and is at 13-under 203.
It’s four more shots back to Iceland’s Olafia Kristinsdottir, a former Wake Forest standout who has been playing on the Ladies European Tour (LET). Kristinsdottir carded a 5-under 67 on the Hills Course, which has been playing the tougher of the two par-72 layouts, to stand at 9-under 207.
England’s Mel Reid, a two-time European Solheim Cup team member, is one of four players tied for fourth at 8-under 208. The 29-year-old Reid, a five-time winner on the LET, had shared the lead with Hataoka after two rounds, but fell back with a 3-over 75 over the Hills Course.
Joining her at 8-under are Ssu Chia Cheng of Chinese Taipei, Krista Puisite of Latvia and Sadena Parks, a former Washington standout who became the first African American to graduate to the LPGA Tour through the Symetra Tour in 2014.
Cheng, who won an LET event as a 17-year-old amateur in 2014, had a 3-under 69 at the Jones Course, Puisite, who appeared on The Golf Channel’s “Big Break Myrtle Beach,” had a 2-under 70 at the Jones Course and Parks, another Big Breaker who appeared in “Big Break Florida,” made a move up the leaderboard with a 5-under 67 at the Jones Course.
Regan De Guzman, an amateur from the Philippines, is alone in eighth place at 7-under 209. De Guzman, who completed her collegiate career at San Jose St. last spring, posted a 2-under 70 at the Hills Course.
If De Guzman -- or any of the other amateurs in the field -- finishes in the top 20, she will have to turn professional in order to accept her LPGA Tour card.
Angel Yin of Arcadia, Calif., a former American Junior Golf Association standout who abandoned her plans to attend Southern California and turned pro, is alone in ninth place at 6-under 210 following a 3-under 69 at the Hills Course.
South Carolina senior Katelyn Dambaugh heads the list of five players tied for 10th at 5-under 211 and is the top current collegiate amateur in the field. The left-hander from Goose Creek, S.C. had a share of the lead following an opening-round 67 at the Jones Course. Dambaugh, the runnerup to UCLA’s Bronte Law in voting for the Annika Award last spring, added a 71 at the Hills Course Thursday before a 1-over 73 Friday back at the Jones Course.
It is quite a cast joining Dambaugh at 211, including Beth Allen, an American who has blossomed professionally on the LET, Ji-Young Oh, a South Korean who owns two LPGA victories and more than $1.8 in earnings, Dottie Ardina of the Philippines who has been playing on the Symetra Tour, and Yu Liu of China, who helped Duke capture the 2014 NCAA title as a freshman and then turned pro.
Allen moved up the leaderboard with a 4-under 68 at the Hills Course, Oh fired a 3-under 69 at the Jones Course, Ardina had a solid 2-under 70 at the Hills Course, and Liu matched par with a 72 at the Hills Course.
Karen Chung, a senior on the powerful Southern California team from Livingston, N.J., is the only other collegian still residing in the top 20. She is tied for 19th after a 1-over 73 at the Jones Course.
UCLA senior Law, the reigning Annika Award winner from England, is tied for 43rd after a 1-over 73 at the Hills Course. Law was a member of the winning Great Britain & Ireland team in the Curtis Cup Match earlier this year.
Furman senior Taylor Totland of Tinton Falls, N.J. and Miami senior Daniela Darquea of Ecuador are tied for 51st at 1-over 217. Totland had a 1-over 73 at the Jones Course while Darquea slipped to a 3-over 75 on the Hills Course.
Reigning Big Ten champion August Kim, a senior at Purdue from St. Augustine, Fla., fell back into a tie for 101st at 6-over 222 after a 77 at the Hills Course.
Also in the group with Totland and Darquea at 1-over 217 is 19-year-old Australian Hannah Green, a semifinalist at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green who has since turned pro. Green posted a 2-over 74 at the Jones Course.