|PGA Assistant Lydia Hall came close to creating a golfing masterpiece on the Gainsborough course at Stoke by Nayland in setting the pace in the first round of the WPGA International Challenge.|
PGA Assistant Lydia Hall came close to creating a golfing masterpiece on the Gainsborough course at Stoke by Nayland in the first round of the WPGA International Challenge.
Hall, a member of the Ladies European Tour who is two thirds of the way through her training to become a PGA pro, posted a seven-under par round of 65 to lead what is the penultimate event in the LET Access Series (LETAS).
In doing so she birdied half the holes on the challenging course at the Suffolk resort that is staging the event for the fifth year in succession.
One came at the first which, with hindsight, was a portent of things to come. Bogeys at two par fives, the third and fifth holes, were not.
Thereafter, however, it was birdie bonanza time for the 29-year-old from Wales. Seven came in the last 13 holes and what would have been number eight missed the cup at the par-three 18th by a whisker.
It was a rare missed putt in a round that suggested the putting ills that plagued her earlier in the season have been cured.
In what was a classic case of ‘physician heal thyself’ Hall recently headed for the desert to work on her putting and, thus far, she is satisfied with the outcome.
“It was good to having a game where I was putting well,” she said. “My putting hadn’t been that good throughout the season so I went away to Adu Dhabi and did quite a lot of putting work.
“I worked on it myself – teach myself putting, I guess. I changed a couple of things, including the way I hold the grip and it’s working out so far.
“It was a lot better when I played in Spain last week. And it paid off again today.”
Hall was one of the day’s early starters and for a while it looked as though she would go into the second of the tournament’s three rounds cushioned by a substantial lead,
Come late afternoon, however, she had a rival in the form of Ines Lescudier from France.
Starting at the 10th, Lescudier also birdied her first hole but, unlike Hall, no bogeys followed as she posted a flawless six-under par round of 66 to finish a shot off the lead.
It also left her two clear of Scotland’s Michele Thomson and Sian Evans of England.
Evans, who is attached to the Elite Golf Academy at Kings Hill Golf Club in Kent, had the distinction of being the leading fully-qualified PGA representative at the end of round one.
She, too, had a bogey-free round with her birdies coming at the third, eighth, 14th and 16th holes.
Meanwhile, as Hall and Lescudier were claiming the first two positions on the leaderboard in such emphatic style, an intriguing and important sub-plot was playing out beneath them – namely the battle to end the season in a top five place in the LETAS rankings.
Doing so earns a coveted Ladies European Tour card and, with England’s Meghan MacLaren effectively home and hosed such is the extent of her lead, four are there to be claimed.
And, with just 2,700 points spanning numbers two to eight in the rankings and with this tournament worth 5,000 to the winner and a similar amount available in the last of the series, which will be contested in Spain next month, there is much to play for and plenty to lose.
So far in Suffolk, Valentine Derrey of France, who lies second, is unlikely to be displeased by her two-under par first round of 70.
Not so Lucie Andre, her compatriot who is on three-over, nor England’s Charlotte Thompson and Emma Goddard who posted scores of three and four-over respectively.
By contrast, two other PGA Professionals competing in the tournament, England’s Keely Chiericato and Heather MacRae of Scotland, fared somewhat better as they returned scores of level par and one-over respectively.