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American Marissa Steen had a great strategy in Northern Ireland on Friday — play well Thursday

ANTRIM, Northern Ireland — Marissa Steen has had to lean on patience and perseverance in the face of numerous obstacles during her time on the former Symetra Tour and now the LPGA. The former University of Memphis star has battled injuries and self-doubt and has been forced to play the long game with her career.

It’s starting to pay off.

The 33-year-old had a career year in 2021, amassing nearly $200,000 in earnings after needing ankle surgery in 2019. She’s added a couple of big results this year, as well, finishing 15th at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer and then adding a top-25 showing at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

This week at the ISPS Handa World Invitational, Steen was given an upfront challenge in the event that plays the opening two days on different courses: the parkland Galgorm Castle course and the Castlerock links. While others ran out to a big early lead by posting a low number at the vulnerable Castlerock, she trudged through a solid 70 at Galgorm, the best number on that course for the opening round. On Friday, when players switched courses, many of those who’d beaten up on Castlerock had trouble at Galgorm.

So, using a steady 72 in her second round at the links course, Steen rocketed up the leaderboard into the lead of this tournament that mixes LPGA, Ladies European Tour and DP World Tour players.

“Really, my main goal going into today was just to stay patient. Out here on this links course, it’s just so much more exposed. That was all I was saying, was just stay patient. It’s not going to play easy for anyone,” said Steen, who grew up in Cincinnati. “My first five holes were dead into the wind. I was pretty happy to be even through that stretch. Yeah, and hung tough. Luckily made a long putt on the last, which I always joke will make lunch taste a little bit better.”

Steen was smart enough to know that the best recipe for success on Friday was to simply outlast the field on Thursday. It’s something she’s had to do with her career, so this came naturally. She knew that staying even-keeled on the tougher Galgorm was her best chance.

“I think it was huge. I told my caddie, I have a local caddie this week, and I told him after our practice round at Galgorm I think out there it’s really important to drive it well because it gets really narrow in some places off the tee and the rough is super thick,” she said. “The couple holes that I hit it into the rough it was just a guessing game on how the ball is going to come out. And with more trees, the wind really swirls and it’s a lot harder to judge than out here at Castlerock.

“Galgorm was still challenging yesterday, just in a different way. Really in the UK in general just because the wind and the weather can just be so crazy, I always think just over here, just stay as patient as possible.”

Steen’s finest moment thus far came on the 18th hole on Friday. She dropped a 50-foot birdie putt that pushed her tournament total to 3 under, a stroke ahead of Esther Henseleit atop the leaderboard.

She’s not pressing. Steen hasn’t notched a victory of any sort since she won three times on the then-Symetra Tour in 2014, so she’s simply happy to stay in the mix.

“I feel good,” she said. “I’ve been rolling it really well on the greens, which is obviously a huge confidence booster. Just want to take the same mentality I had the first two rounds through the weekend.”

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