Internationals Liz Bennett and Melissa Reid lead the qualifiers for the matchplay stages of the English ladies’ close amateur championship at Littlestone in Kent.
Both players were four-under par after the 36-hole strokeplay qualifying but Liz is top seed by virtue of her better second round. She shot three-under 69 while Melissa carded her second 70.
“It’s nice to qualify top, it’s good for the confidence, but qualifying is the main thing,” said Liz, 24, the English strokeplay champion from Brokenhurst Manor in Hampshire.
She described her second round as steady golf in which she found the measure of the greens. “A lot more putts went in today, especially from around 15ft,” said Liz, who had five birdies in her round, including one on the 18th.
Melissa, 19, was targeting the top of the leaderboard as part of her positive mindset to aim high at all times. “I worked really hard on my mindset over the winter and it’s paying off,” she said.
The Curtis Cup player from Chevin in Derbyshire has already won the 2007 Helen Holm Scottish strokeplay championship and was top qualifier in the French lady juniors’ championship. She also helped Great Britain win the Commonwealth Tournament.
Today, she signed off with two birdies. On the 184-yard 17th her four-iron into the wind finished six inches from the hole and on par five 18th she two-putted from about 60ft for her birdie.
Rachel Bell, an England international from Ganton, moved up to third place when she also scored 69, playing alongside Liz Bennett. She was another one to stage a fine finish with birdies on the par five 16th and 18th. She set up both with impressive driving and three-wood play. “It was solid,” she said.
Kent’s Claire Aitken, from The London club, moved confidently into the matchplay. She qualified in seventh place on two over par.
Among the other players to make it safely through to the matchplay stages are the Curtis Cup player Naomi Edwards (Ganton); the French lady juniors’ champion Florentyna Parker (Royal Birkdale); the Portuguese ladies’ champion Holly Aitchison (Bedfordshire), ELGA order of merit titleholder Kerry Smith (Waterlooville), English girls’ champion Rachel Jennings (Izaak Walton), and English mid-amateur champion Charlotte Ellis (Minchinhampton).
But four other golfers had a battle on their hands. They tied on 12-over-par and had to play-off for the last three places in the matchplay draw. Nicole Whitmore (Woburn) lost out when she bogeyed the first hole, while Annabel Silk (Corhampton), Charlotte Wild (Mere) and Charlie Douglass (Brocket Hall) all had pars.
The matchplay starts at 9am and the games tee off at eight minute intervals. First round draw: Liz Bennett (Brokenhurst Manor) v Charlie Douglass (Brocket Hall). Tracey Boyes (Meon Valley) v Jenny Pease (Braintree). Danielle Montgomery (Lambourne) v Laura Jones (Royal Liverpool). Caroline Marron (Bromborough) v Jo Hodge (Knowle). Florentyna Parker (Royal Birkdale) v Sarah Attwood (Gog Magog). Lisa Ball (Matfen Hall) v Rachel Jennings (Izaak Walton). Hannah Barwood (Knowle) v Rozalyn Adams (Addington Court). Danielle Gibb (Rochester & Cobham Park) v Naomi Edwards (Ganton). Rachel Bell (Ganton) v Annabel Silk (Corhampton). Emma Lyons (West Surrey) v Laura Collin (John O’Gaunt). Hannah Grant (Enmore Park) v Victoria Inglis (Woodbridge). Anna Scott (Consett & District) v Holly Aitchison (Bedfordshire). Claire Aitken (The London) v Laura Cutler (Warley Park). Fern Grimshaw (Weymouth) v Kerry Smith (Waterlooville). Rachel Connor (Manchester) v Charlotte Ellis (Minchinhampton). Charlotte Wild (Mere) v Melissa Reid (Chevin).
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Photo: Rémy Gros