Kelsey MacDonald Photo: DogLeg Media
Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald will have to hold her nerve in the final round of the WPGA International Challenge if she is to claim the most prestigious prize of her short professional career.
The 24-year-old, who began the day level on four-under with England’s Hannah Ralph, followed up with a round of three-under to go clear of the 120-strong field.
In terms of an advantage, however, the gap is narrow. Hot on her heels, one stroke behind are Ralph, who negotiated the Gainsborough course at the Suffolk resort in two-over, and Amy Boulden of Wales.
Ominously for MacDonald, while Ralph afforded her an opening, Boulden maintained the pressure in the chase for the €4,000 winner’s cheque.
The 19-year-old, who was a member of the victorious 2012 Curtis Cup team and is making her professional debut, posted a second successive three-under-par round of 69.
That proved the best of the day, an achievement emulated by MacDonald and Spain’s Maria Beautell.
MacDonald, however, had to overcome an inauspicious start. Having bogeyed the final hole of the first round, she followed suit at the first in the second.
“I shanked my tee-shot, so it wasn’t a great start,” she admitted. Thereafter there were no more blips and a birdie at the par five fourth, which was followed by three more, put her game back on track.
Should MacDonald maintain that form and win the tournament which, supported by Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa, victory will come within four months of her turning pro.
“I turned pro in May so have not had half a season,” added MacDonald, who is attached to the Robert Rock Golf Centre in Lichfield, Staffordshire.
“It’s been a case of finding my feet and I’m pleased with the way things are going. I’ve had some invites from the Ladies European Tour and the advice I’ve had from Robert Rock has been invaluable. He’s a great mentor to have.”
While MacDonald, Boulden and Beautell claimed the honours for best round of the day, the accolade for shot of the day went to Gabriella Conway of England.
Conway, a 17-year-old amateur who plays at Brockett Hall, Hertfordshire, had a hole in one at the par three 11th.
It was her first in competition but was not sufficient to prevent her from missing the cut, which fell at four-over.
In missing out, the teenager found her herself in illustrious company. Alison Nicholas, the former victorious Solheim Cup captain and US Open winner, will not be among the 31 professionals and four amateurs contesting the final round.
Nicholas, who was making a rare appearance, was impressed by the venue and the golf from one of her playing partners, Spain’s Mireia Prat who, with Galina Rotmistrova of Russia, are the leading overseas players on three-under.
“The Spanish girl looks a great prospect,” said Nicholas. “And I’m certainly encouraged by the standard of play I’ve seen. I played to support the tournament and because I’ve got some games coming up. It’s proved to be a good event on a great course at a superb venue. The owners of Stoke by Nayland have been very supportive and the staff very hospitable.”