PORTRUSH, IRE (June 7, 2011) -- The conditions were overcast and wet for most of the morning but the total lack of wind meant that some of the par-5s were reachable in two and the long par-4s were not nearly so formidable as they will be in a half-gale.
Lee, over in Britain for next week’s Astor Trophy match-play team tournament featuring the world-class girls of not only Australia but New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, not to mention Great Britain & Ireland, shot a six-under-par 68, a brilliant effort by one so young with little or no experience of how to play a links course.
That gave her a three-shot lead from another golfing whiz-kid, 14-year-old Lydia Ko (New Zealand), who has a handicap of +6.2 and is rated No 1 in the Women’s World Amateur Rankings, and Nicole Vandermade (Canada), both of whom shot three-under-par 71s.
The joint second bracket was extended to five players later in the day by Marita Engselius (Norway) and Sophia Popov (Germany), who has just won the “Freshman of the Year” title on the US women’s college circuit.. On 72 were new Irish champion Danielle McVeigh (Royal Co Down Ladies’), Giulia Molinaro (Italy) and Camilla Hedberg (Spanish Champion).
Lee, Ko and Vandermade will all be playing in the Astor Trophy.: “We don’t have links courses over in the West of Australia but I had two good practice rounds here at Royal Portrush on Sunday and Monday. I learned a lot about playing the ball clean off the turf. It’s a different kind of golf but I like it,” said Minjee whose South Korean mother started her playing golf about five years ago.
“Mum has a licence to teach golf so I have learned how to play from her.” Minjee has a handicap of +4 and is a member of the Royal Freemantle Golf Club. “I had only 27 putts so I would say that putting was the strongest part of my game today,” said Minjee who birdied the first, long seventh, eighth, long nint, long 10th, sort 14th, 16th and par-5 17th in halves of 34 both ways against the card of 37-37.
The course the Ladies Golf Union has put together for this championship is longer than the one used by the Royal Portrush lady members so Minjee’s 68 is “only” a record for a course that was being played officially for the first time today and will “disappear” after Saturday’s final.
Minjee did have two bogeys, by the way – a three-putt at the second and a 5 at te par-4 15th which was one of the few fairways she missed all day.
“I didn’t hit the ball all that well on the practice range before I went out this morning but I thought I’ll just give it a go and I’m not only surprised I got it round in 68 – I am delighted!”
Lydia Ko deviated from par only three times in her 71 – 15 pars and birdies at the second, ninth and 10th, all of them par-5 holes. Vandermade made her 71 with a three-under-par outward half of 34 which included birdies at the second, fifth, seventh and eighth, dropping a shot at the short sixth. On the way home the Canadian reeled off nine straight pars.
Popov, an 18-year-old from the Frankfurt area of Germany, birdied the first in the pouring rain but settled down to pepper the flags with her approach shots.
“The five-footer I had for my first birdie at the fifth was about my longest putt of the day,” said Sophia who also birdied three par-5s, the seventh, ninth and 18th by getting home in two and two-putting. Her remaining birdie was a 2 at the short 11th. She did drop one more shot, at the short sixth.
Enzelius, a 23-year-old who has one year to go at Tulsa University, was so excited about playing in the championship that she bogeyed fourth of the first five holes.
“I had to calm myself down and when I did, things came all right,” said Marita. They certainly did! She parred from the sixth to the ninth to get out in 40 and then had the best inward half of the day – six-under-par 31 with birdies at the 10th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th.
“I think the difference was I started hitting the fairways consistently off the tee, which I didn’t do over the early holes,” said the Norwegian.
Irish champion Danielle McVeigh was first off the tee at 6.30pm on a damp morning but the Royal Co Down Ladies player did not let the early wake-up call or the miserable conditions upset her in the slightest. She posted a two-under-par 72 before 10.30am.
Danielle went from the sublime to the ridiculous on the outward half with an eagle 3 at the par-5 seventh and then a double bogey 7 at the long ninth to turn in level par 37. That slip was the first and last on McVeigh’s card. She came home in increasingly wet conditions in two-under-par 35, studded with birdies at the par-4 13th and par-5 17th.
Danielle’s 72 was matched by Italy’s Giulia Molinaro, a student at Arizona State University. She packed five birdies into halves of 35 (two under par) and 37 (level), going under par at the long second, short third, long seventh and 13th. Giulia dropped shots at the first, fifth and 16th.
France’s Perrine Delacour, British girls open champion at West Lancashire GC in 2009, tucked in behind the joint leaders with a 73 with birdies at the short third, par-5 seventh, par-5 10th and par-5 17th. The Parisienne dropped shots at the 12th, 15th and 18th in halves of 35 and 38.
Sweden’s Johanna Tillstrom also had a 73, again with halves of 35 out and 38 home. Johanna birdied the fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th. She had bogeys at the sixth, 13th and 17th.
Those on the 73 mark included Curtis Cup player Sally Watson (Elie and Earlsferry Ladies), a student at Stanford University, California, and Cecilia Cho (NZ), No 2 in the Women’s World Amateur Rankings.
Scottish champion Louise Kenney (Pitreavie), local girl Stephanie Meadow and Wales’ Gemma Bradbury all hit the 74 mark by varying routes. Kenney finished strongly by holing a 60ft putt for a birdie 3 at the 16th and then hit an “awesome” drive to set up a two-putt birdie 4 at the long 17th in covering the inward half in one-under 36.
Alabama University student Stephanie birdied the fifth, eighth and 17th but bogeyed the seventh, 13th and 15th.
Gemma bogeyed the first but then covered the next nine holes in four under par with birdies at the fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th. A bogey at the 13th was cancelled out by her fifth birdie of the round, at the 15th , but just when she looked set to take the lead, Gemma ran up a triple bogey 7 at the 16th and took 39 home for a 74.
Charley Hull (Woburn), only 15 but ranked in the world’s top 20 and winner of the Welsh women’s open stroke play this season, had a 74.
Lisa Maguire (Slieve Russell) went to the turn in three-under-par 34, the joint best of a morning of unpleasant rather than difficult conditions. She birdied the second, seventh, ninth and then the 10th to be four under par with eight to play. But it was all uphill after that. The 16-year-old Curtis Cup player dropped five shots to par over the next six holes with bogeys at the 11t, 12th and 14th plus a double bogey at the 15th. The inward half cost her 41 shots, four over the card. At the conclusion of Wednesday’s second qualifying round, the 64 players with the lowest 36-hole tallies will qualify for the match-play stages.
Lisa Maguire finished with a 75, which was three shots better than twin sister Leona who turned in 38, having bogeyed the first and fourth with only one birdie, at the eighth to offset these slips. But she could not find a birdie at all in an inward 40 which had a bogey at the 12th and a double bogey at the 16th. Defending champion Kelly Tidy (Royal Birkdale) had a three-over-par 77, the same score as Pamela Pretswell (Bothwell Castle), holder of the British women’s open amateur stroke-play title.
It used to be the tradition to have a play-off should there be a tie for the last few places but this has been dropped because it sometimes led to very late finishes on a Wednesday evening if there were quite a few play-off participants. Now a card play-off will eliminate those in excess of the precise number of 64 qualifiers.