Anne-Catherine Tanguay (Quebec, Canada) and Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador) made 13 total birdies while playing in the same group on Saturday and both moved into a share of the lead at 7-under, 137. Later in the day, Briana Mao (Folsom, Calif.) posted a 4-under, 68 to get to 7-under. Tanguay, who has six career top 10’s including a T10 to open the year at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic, posted a 4-under, 68 while Darquea, a rookie playing in just her second career event, turned in a 5-under, 67.

There are five players just one off the lead including Burbank native Emily Tubert. There are 11 players within three shots of the leaders.

The cut was made at 2-over, 142 and 72 players will play on Sunday. The first group will tee at 7:30 a.m. while the final group of Darquea and Mao will tee at 1:10 p.m.

“I just really got my putting going today, I made a bunch of 10 and 12 footers,” said Tanguay, who attempted 29 putts. “I made some up-and-downs on the par 5’s, which was key so overall it was a solid round.”

Tanguay decided this past offseason to stay in Florida to prepare for the season and said it was her best offseason to date. She only took about a week off.

“Two weeks before the season started, I was getting itchy to play because I’ve worked a lot on short game, chipping and putting and made some equipment changes that are helping my game,” said Tanguay. “I got some new wedges and I got some more distance off the tee with a new driver.”

Tanguay also said that she will have her boyfriend on the bag full-time this year and the duo works well on the course.

“It gets stressful sometimes on the road and it is good to have someone that helps me relax,” explained Tanguay. “He knows my game well, he knows me well and I think we make a great team on the course.”

The 26-year-old has made ten birdies against just one bogey this week. She did have a double bogey on Saturday on the 17th hole.

Tanguay’s low finish on Tour is a tie for fourth. She’ll go for her first win on Sunday.

“My mission this year is to be a little lighter on the golf course and have more fun,” said Tanguay. “It’s definitely nice to be in this position and I’ve been here before and I know how it feels and I think I can do better this time around.”

Darquea will try to become the first player from Ecuador to ever win on the Symetra Tour.

“I putted really well today,” said Darquea, who finished 17th in her pro debut at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic. “On the 20-footers and in I made a lot of them, however on the really long putts I wasn’t as confident. I actually three-putted three times.”

Darquea, who took medalist honors at Stage I of LPGA Qualifying Tournament in 2016, turned professional after three seasons at Miami.

“I’m super excited how I am playing,” said Darquea. “I love to play golf and so far the start to my professional career has been fun. I’m really happy that I am playing well.”

When Darquea was little, her parents bought a membership to a golf club in Quito and she started playing when she was four years old.

“I just fell in love with the game and I couldn’t stop playing,” explained Darquea. “I went to college and then turned professional so golf has pretty much been my entire life.”

Darquea said that taking advantage of the par-5 holes will be critical on Sunday.

Mao, who trains in Palm Desert at La Quinta PGA West, made four birdies over her first seven holes and five total for a 68.

“I was hitting it really well and had a lot of good looks including birdie opportunities on each of the first six holes,” explained Mao. “I was feeling good going into the back nine, but just kind of lost my rhythm. I started swinging too fast and missed some fairways.”

Just like Tanguay and Darquea, Mao will also go for her first win.

“I’m going to go work on ball striking a little and then I’ll be fully prepared for Sunday,” said Mao, an All-ACC performer at the University of Virginia. “There are a bunch of good players towards the top so who knows what will happen.”


You might think that Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador), No. 10 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list, is sweating bullets and losing sleep over the prospect of finishing in or out of the top 10 with two events left in the year. You couldn’t be further from the truth. The 22-year-old is on the cusp of becoming the first from Ecuador to reach the LPGA and she’s as loose as can be.

“I’m here to have fun and I like playing golf, I know everyone says I’m in a tight position, but to be honest I’m young and I know I’m going to have a long career,” said Darquea, just before practicing at the range at Alaqua. “If I make it on the LPGA this year great, but if not I’ll try again and I still have Q-School.”

Is she feeling the pressure? Sure. However, she’s got a bring-it-on mentality.

“I love the pressure, this is why I play golf,” said Darquea, who has six top 10’s this season. “I was talking to my coach and family and this is the place you want to be. I love to compete so I like the position I’m in. I have two important events left, a $150,000 purse and a $200,000 purse so it’s exciting.”

Darquea finished in a tie for fifth last week at the Guardian Championship and created more separation from No. 11. She is now $5,302 in front of Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany).

“I’m having fun and it was fun to have a week where I was making putts and hitting good shots,” said Darquea. “It is great to know that my game is at a really high level. It was great to feel comfortable on the course and know that I can make putts.”

The former Miami Hurricanes star won the 2nd tournament of the season (IOA Championship), but hit a lull in the middle of the season. She didn’t have any top 25 finishes in June or July.

“At the middle of the year, I was struggling with my ball-striking and I was barley making cuts and after Milwaukee when I had a chance to go back home and be with my coach, things got better,” explained Darquea. “It’s great to know that those weeks off back home practicing are working out. I’m pretty confident that everything is going to turn out well.

Darquea has her coach, Jorge Mesa, who she has worked with since she was 14 in Longwood this week. Mesa flew in from Ecuador and will be with Darquea the last two weeks. He was the one that motivated Darquea to play professional golf so they are sharing the last two weeks together.

Mesa is the one that refined her ball-striking, too.

“My ball-striking was so much better in Arkansas and Alabama so I’m not worried about that,” said Darquea. “I’m trying to win tournaments by making putts. If I’m making putts, I’ll be just fine.”

Darquea also has the perfect mindset this week. She’s not zeroed in on the four letters of “LPGA”, instead it’s the three letters of “IOA”.

“I’m not thinking of going to the LPGA, I’m thinking of winning this tournament.”

A second win this week would secure her fate on the LPGA next year.


Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador) holed out for eagle on the 13th and drained birdie on 18 to win the IOA Championship by three shots with a final-round 5-under, 67 on Sunday. She finished with a three-day total of 12-under, 204, the lowest winning score in the three years at Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon.

Darquea’s victory is historic as she becomes the first player in the history of the Symetra Tour or the LPGA from Ecuador to win.

“It’s such a special feeling knowing that kids in Ecuador can look up to someone and say ‘I can play golf and be successful’,” explained an emotional Darquea. “Golf is not a very popular sport in Ecuador so this is so special and really important to me.”

Darquea nets a first-place check of $15,000 and moves to second on the new Volvik Race for the Card money list. Olivia Jordan-Higgins, who withdrew from the IOA Championship, remains in the top spot. Darquea has earned a total of $16,783 through two weeks.

Darquea, who entered the day in a share of the lead, made the turn at 2-under for the day and had a share of the lead early on the back nine. On the 13th hole, she holed out for eagle from 130 yards out in the fairway to grab a two shot lead.

“It is one of the toughest holes on the course and I was in the fairway and hit my 9-iron and the ball bounced on the front edge of the green and the second bounce hit the pin and went in,” explained Darquea. “I couldn’t see from where I was, but everyone on the green started screaming so it was really cool.”

Darquea made four straight pars and then stuck her approach on 18 to five feet and put an exclamation on the win with a birdie.

“I was nervous and my hands were shaking, but that is pretty much why I play golf,” said Darquea about the last putt. “Thank god the ball went in.”

Darquea earned partial LPGA status through Qualifying Tournament by finishing T29. She actually won Stage I of Q-School in the area at the Dinah Shore Courses in Rancho Mirage. She isn’t sure how many LPGA events she will play, but is thoroughly enjoying her time on the Symetra Tour.

“I didn’t really expect to win this quick,” said Darquea, who finished T17 at the season opener. “I just love to play golf and compete and I’m super excited about this.”