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Golf - 15. May 2008.

Staffordshire’s Rachel Jennings is top seed in English championship




Staffordshire teenager Rachel Jennings leads the 32 qualifiers for the matchplay stages of the English Women’s Close Amateur Championship at Ganton, Yorkshire.

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She’s the reigning French lady junior champion – beating the cream of Europe’s U21s – and she’s a past winner of the English girls’ championship. But this is the first time she has qualified as top seed in a major competition.

“It’s lovely, it’s a good experience – but you still have to take every match as it comes and keep plugging away,” said the 19-year-old from Izaak Walton.

Rachel claimed top spot when she added a two-over par 74 to her opening 75. “I was hitting the ball well and holed a couple of putts – and just got the job done,” she said.

“I’m pleased with my score – this is a tough course and if you put the ball in the wrong position you can get penalised very badly.”

She’s one shot clear of defending champion Naomi Edwards, who is playing on her home course. Her second round 73 was the best of the qualifying scores – but she felt it could have been better.

“I would have taken it at the beginning of the day – but I was two-under through six and dropped a couple on the back 12 holes. My long game is good but I just didn’t hole enough putts, so I’m going to work on that and hopefully I will hole a few more tomorrow. “

Naomi is one of five Yorkshire players to make it through to the matchplay. She’s joined in the draw by club colleague Sara Garbutt, Middlesborough’s Ellie Robinson, Malton & Norton’s Emma Brown (nee Duggleby) and  Harrogate’s Nikki Dunn.

The field includes two of this month’s Curtis Cup team and both are through. Hampshire’s Liz Bennett (Brokenhurst Manor) was satisfied to qualify in third place after a second round 77, in which she complained that the putts refused to drop. “I was putting well but everything stopped short of the hole and just wouldn’t drop. I’m saving the birdies for the next day!” she said. “The goal was to make the cut and move into the matchplay.”

Meanwhile Lancashire’s Florentyna Parker (Royal Birkdale) secured 26th place when she returned 76, knocking 10 shots off her first round score.

Leicestershire 14-year-old Jamie-Leigh Voss achieved her ambition of reaching the matchplay stages. The youngster, from Kirby Muxloe, shared the halfway lead in qualifying but fell back with a second round 87. However, it was enough to see her comfortably through to the knockout in 25th place at only her second attempt.

Gloucestershire’s Charlotte Ellis (Minchinhampton) shared the overnight lead with Jamie-Leigh after returning a first round 74. She added an 81 and went through in eighth place. Now the two players face each other in the first round.

Jenny Pease (Braintree) and Sarah Walton (Clitheroe) claimed the final two places in the draw after a sudden death play-off between three players tied in 31st place. Laura Collin (John O'Gaunt) was knocked out on the second extra hole.

First round draw:
Rachel Jennings (Izaak Walton) v Sarah Walton (Clitheroe)
Lisa Ball (Matfen Hall) v Sarah Attwood (Gog Magog)
Sara Garbutt (Ganton) v Lucinda Mileham (Aldwickbury Park)
Jamie Leigh Voss (Kirby Muxloe) v Charlotte Ellis (Minchinhampton)
Claire Aitken (Mid-Kent) v Nikki Dunn (Harrogate)
Charlotte Dalton (Ladbrook Park) v Hannah Barwood (Knowle)
Kym Larratt (Kibworth) v Holly Aitchison (Bedfordshire)
Tilly Holder (Magnolia Park) v Rachel Connor (Manchester)
Liz Bennett (Brokenhurst Manor) v Sian James (Bristol & Clifton)
Hermione FitzGerald (Links, Newmarket) v Kate Whitmore (Sandiway)
Kerry Smith (Waterlooville) v Emma Brown (Malton & Norton)
Charlie Douglass (Brocket Hall) v Charlotte Wild (Mere)
Ellis Keenan (Sunningdale) v Florentyna Parker (Royal Birkdale)
Anne Wheble (Dartford) v Ellie Robinson (Middlesbrough)
Emilee Taylor (Gainsborough) v Faye Sanderson (Heworth,Durham)
Jenny Pease (Braintree Golf Club) v Naomi Edwards (Ganton)

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