GALLOWAY, N.J. – Mariah Stackhouse never has seemed to be in a rush. She was good enough to leave college early and play professional golf but she wanted to stay at Stanford all four years and get her degree.
When she began her rookie year on the LPGA Tour in 2017, she was determined to learn all that she could about the tournament courses, planning her own travel and getting her game to a point at which she could contend on a weekly basis.
Now Stackhouse, 24, has put herself in position at the ShopRite LPGA Classic to become the first African American woman to win an LPGA Tour event. She birdied her final two holes Saturday for a 6-under-par 65 and drew to within two strokes of 36-hole leader Celine Herbin.
"It's not added pressure," said Stackhouse, who lives in suburban Atlanta. "When I'm on the golf course, I'm not performing as a black American. I'm just a golfer trying to make as many birdie putts as I can and saving all the pars that I can.
"My approach this year, I didn't come out wanting necessarily to win tournaments and be in contention. I needed for my game to be at a place where I'm actually having the opportunity to contend week-in and week-out. That's my only focus. I've been getting closer and closer to that with every event the last five or six weeks. I'm happy to see myself where I am."
Herbin fired her second straight 66 on the Bay Course of Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club to hold the clubhouse lead at 10-under 132 on a day when storms passing to the south of the course generated no rain but produced enough lightning to force the suspension of play for nearly three hours.
Sei Young Kim of South Korea was 8-under for the round and 10-under for the tournament through 15 holes at the time darkness halted play with 36 players remaining on the course. They will conclude their second round starting at 7:15 a.m. Sunday.
Among the players who finished, two players – Ashleigh Buhai with a 66 and Annie Park with a 65 – were tied with Stackhouse at 134. A four-way tie at 135 included Paula Creamer (66), who made a run at victory here last year, and New Jersey native Marina Alex (68).
Defending champion I.K. Kim and former Duke All-America Leona Maguire, making her pro debut, were in a group at 136.
Stackhouse, whose father, Ken, is first cousins with former 76er Jerry Stackhouse, is the eighth African American player to have LPGA Tour status. She is at ease with being a role model.
"I always say it's an opportunity," she said. "I don't think being a role model is a responsibility. I think if you're doing your best to perform to the top of your abilities, being a kind and humble person and just generally loving and appreciating what you get the opportunity to do, I think that that in itself will help you kind of emulate the person that you want to be."
Stackhouse faced a 9-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th following the delay and drained it, then followed with a birdie at the par-5 18th. She said she likes the course much better than she did last year, when she missed the cut.
Herbin, who left her job as a biochemical engineer at age 27 and eventually became a professional golfer, enjoyed another solid round as she continued her best performance of the year on tour. She had made only five cuts in her previous 11 tournaments.