Kemp, Lee lead strong Aussie challenge on LPGA Tour
Sarah Kemps credits the camaraderie of Australian teammates for helping propel her to the top of the Cognizant Founders Cup leaderboard in New Jersey.
Chasing a maiden LPGA Tour victory, Kemp joined former world No.1 Jin Young Ko at the top with a birdie-filled second-round seven-under-par 65.
Kemp and Ko are eight under, with Minjee Lee tied for third one shot back following a 68, with fellow Australian Steph Kyriacou (69) also right in the mix at five under.
Kemp, Lee, Kyriacou and Hannah Green led Australia to the final of last week's International Crown teams' event in San Francisco and have carried the good vibes across the country.
"I just think we were in such a good head and mind space last week and it's led over to this week," Kemp said.
"We just had so much fun. We just keep talking about it when we see each other. We had such a great team and we just laughed so much.
"Hannah said she had a sore belly from laughing so much. My cheeks hurt from laughing."
Kemp was laughing from the get-go on Friday, opening her round with three consecutive birdies and never looking back.
She added five more before dropping her only shot of the day on the par-4 16th.
"The three birdies were awesome," Kemp said.
"I just started hitting it good. I had a good warm-up and it felt like it was going to be a good day.
"I was hitting fairways and greens and they just started going in so it was a nice to trend for the day."
The Sydneysider is excited to be entering the weekend with the chance to break her US duck.
"I'm sure I'll go to bed and think about it naturally, and I think I'll be pretty excited for tomorrow," Kemp said.
"Maybe try and calm my excitement down. Being co-leader going into Saturday at an LPGA event is pretty cool, right?
"So if I can just play it down a little bit and just manage my excitement - although that's a really good thing and I think there would be something wrong if I wasn't excited - but I can get a little bit too hyped."
Lee is the defending champion but said that hadn't really crossed her mind.
"I just wanted to have two good rounds to start the week and I'm in a good position for the weekend," said the world No.6.
"I'm going to stick to my game plan and hit good drives and shots into the green and hit good putts.
"That's all I can control."
The reigning US Open champion has struggled for consistency in 2023 but says the difficult but delightful Upper Montclair Country Club layout is once again bringing out the best in her.
"I like it when it's challenging and I like the look of the trees," Lee said.
"It kind of suits my eye. It's quite tight off the tee so I concentrate a little bit more and have more focus. Maybe that's what's been helping me."
Kyriacou rebounded from a double-bogey sixth on the third hole and another dropped shot on No.6 with an eagle and three birdies in her last 10 holes to be tied for seventh.
Fellow Australians Karis Davidson (68) and Grace Kim (72) are joint 22nd at three under.
But a fatigued Green (72) missed the cut at four over after a gruelling but hugely successful three weeks that also included a third LPGA Tour victory at the LA Open a fortnight ago.