By Ryan Gilchrest, email@example.com | 757-247-4673
7:28 PM EDT, May 4, 2013
WILLIAMSBURG — After posting Saturday's low round, Lizette Salas was quick to single out a major investor in her success.
"My dad played a big, big role for me, and he still does. He's been the backbone to not only our family but for my career," said Salas, standing behind the grandstands around the 18th green at the LPGA's Kingsmill Championship. "Just having him here, having him walk and watch me play, is a blessing."
She pointed out Ramon Salas standing quietly just 10 yards away, just outside the fenced-off area reserved for players. The head mechanic at a golf course in Azusa, Calif., he used to barter for golf lessons — trading his time and expertise so his daughter could learn the game.
"I worked extra hours," Ramon Salas said. "The manager gave me a lot of support to travel with her and come back to work extra hours to keep my salary. That helped me at that time a lot."
The investment, which already bore fruit with four years of free education at the University of Southern California, is beginning to pay off on the professional level.
Lizette Salas shot a 6-under 65 on Saturday at the Kingsmill Championship, turning in the only bogey-free scorecard of the third round. The run up the leaderboard comes just a few weeks after a career-best finish at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, in which she shot a 10-under 62 in the final round before losing a playoff with Suzann Pettersen.
In her second full year on the LPGA Tour, Salas has four top-10 finishes and is fifth on the money list.
Salas credited both parents with recognizing her ability, even before she did.
"They went with their instinct, they went with their gut," Salas said. "They knew I had something for this game. It's something I didn't love at first but I knew this game could take me places. And what a beautiful thing it is to have family travel with me and enjoy this journey with me.
"It's not a payback, it's just that they've been a big part of it and they're along for the ride."
Entering the third round at 1-over, Salas combined her lucky color — she calls it "Purple Saturday" and dresses accordingly — with an aggressive approach and improved putting stroke to climb into a tie for sixth place. Salas is five shots behind leader Christie Kerr (10-under), who also made six birdies Saturday on the way to a 5-under 66.
"(Friday) I was too caught up in trying to be perfect," Salas said. "I have to understand that I can't be perfect all the time and that I just have to go out and play.
"This course is a tough one, so you really have to pay attention and you just have to keep it simple."
While she has captured a bit of magic with Purple Saturday — her 62 in Hawaii also came on a Saturday — Salas is still looking for a Sunday charm and her first LPGA title.
"I still have to figure that out," said Salas, who is paired with Ilhee Lee in the final round. "I tried the red and gold for my alma mater, USC. We'll see. I might bring it out tomorrow."
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