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LI's Annie Park leads LPGA's Symetra Tour event

Annie Park tees off on the par-4 11th

Annie Park tees off on the par-4 11th hole on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 at the U.S. Women's Amateur tournament at the Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Annie Park has had an array of victories in her prodigious golf career, from junior events to the Nassau boys high school tournament, NCAA Championship and international team matches. Now, she has the opportunity for a completely different kind of win, one that would bring a new kind of prize: a big paycheck.

The 20-year-old from Levittown is closing in on her first professional victory with a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the LPGA's Symetra Tour Toyota Danielle Downey Classic in Rochester, N.Y. Park shot 3-under-par 69 at Brook-Lea Country Club Saturday and finished the third round at 12 under, ahead of veteran LPGA player and former U.S. Solheim Cup team member Vicky Hurst.

"A good finish would mean a lot. Everything really is happening so fast," said the golfer who turned pro a month ago. "I just need to focus on me and regardless of the results, if I just try my best out there, I think I'll be happy."

Having left high school a semester early to enroll in USC and immediately winning the individual and team NCAA titles, Park decided to end her college career this past spring and get started on the path that she has awaited since she was a young teen.

She qualified for the Symetra circuit, which is a feeder system for the LPGA Tour, just as the serves the PGA Tour. Kelly Shon of Port Washington played on the Symetra last summer after graduating from Princeton and is on the LPGA Tour now. Shon made it through a qualifying tournament, but the season's top 10 money winners on the Symetra Tour automatically make it to the LPGA.

A victory, with half the schedule to go, would give Park a big boost toward the top 10 list.

"There are so many great golfers out here," she said after her round Saturday. "It is definitely different than college golf, but I am having a lot of fun out here."

She said she is planning to take courses in the fall toward finishing her communications degree at USC. "I'll be headed into my senior year and I'll have a year and a half left and I'd rather finish now than later," she said.

For now, though, she is focusing on moving up in class as a pro.

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