Teenage internationals Melissa Reid and Florentyna Parke both scored two-under par 70 to share the lead after the first round of the English ladies’ close championship at Littlestone in Kent.
Three other players also broke par on a fine golfing day with plenty of sunshine and light breezes. Among them is Kent golfer Claire Aitken who lives near Gravesend and plays at The London club.
Melissa (left), 19, from Chevin in Derbyshire, reached the turn at three-under par, helped by an eagle on the long 5th, where her approach finished 4ft from the hole. The Curtis Cup player got to four-under on the back nine but also three-putted three times and had to settle for a 70.
“I’m a bit disappointed – but it’s not too bad really,” said Melissa, who is the Scottish open strokeplay champion and has just helped Great Britain win the Commonwealth Tournament.
Florentyna, 17, from Royal Birkdale, produced two matching halves of one-under par – and was a relieved golfer when she came off the course.
“I didn’t expect it because I was playing so badly in practice yesterday. I lost four balls in six holes and I was a bit scared about today,” said Florentyna, the French lady junior champion. The difference, she explained, was hitting the fairways.
Another relieved golfer was English strokeplay champion Liz Bennett (Brokenhurst Manor) whose one-under 71 wiped out memories of her last outing at Littlestone in the 2002 championship.
“I didn’t play very well then and I didn’t come with good memories – but it’s all gone now for the rest of the week.
“This is a course which can grab you quickly and you have to minimise any damage and just keep the ball in play. That was my theory,” added Liz, who finished strongly with two birdies in the last three holes.
Claire Aitken spent all last week at Littlestone, representing Kent in county match week, and she put her knowledge to good use. She was two-under at the turn and was disappointed to bogey the short 17th and to only par the 18th.
“I felt I left a couple of shots out there but overall I’m quite happy,” said Claire who has already won two top scratch events this season.
Hannah Grant, 19, from Enmore in Somerset, had a stunning finish to her round, with an eagle and a birdie in her last three holes for one-under par 71.
After the second strokeplay round the top 32 players will go forward to the matchplay stages of the championship, which start on Thursday.
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A Gutsy performance from both sides