Austria’s Emma Spitz is still in front at La Manga Club and holds a one-shot lead with one round left of the Pre-Qualifier – Europe.

The 22-year-old has had a consistent week in Spain with rounds of 69 and 70 on the first two days before carding a round of 72 (-1) on the South course in the third round.

Spitz began her day with a bogey on the first before rolling in birdies on three and seven, she dropped a shot on 10 but a birdie-bogey-birdie finish leaves her at the top of the leaderboard with a total of six-under-par.  

“It was nicer conditions until the last few holes where it was almost the same and I thought ‘we don’t need this again’,” said the former UCLA player. “It was solid, I didn’t make many putts. I had a few chances, and I had some unfortunate mudballs that didn’t go where I wanted them to go, but that’s how it is.

“Overall, it was fine, and I managed to make two nice birdies. I made a birdie on 16 to go back to one-under and Tomáš, my caddie, said let’s finish the round under par. I three-putted the next hole, but then was able to birdie the last.

“I think every day you see the course a little bit more and learn more spots of where to hit it to which is nice. You get more used to the greens and it’s also nice for the confidence because my game has not been exactly where I’ve wanted it the last few weeks. Playing well here is a good confidence booster.”

One shot behind Spitz on five-under-par is Thailand’s Trichat Cheenglab, who is known by the nickname ‘Mine’, and she produced a bogey-free round of 67 (-4) on the North course on day three.

“Today my driver was able to stay on the fairway, so I could make a lot of birdies,” said the Thai player. “The wind wasn’t as tough as yesterday, so it was more comfortable to play and have fun with it on the course.

“On the greens, I was quite far from the pin, so I was two-putting for par and if I have a chance to make birdie then I did. My birdie putts were between three and six feet.

“For the last two years, I have been playing on the LET Access Series and I had a chance to come here because I like the weather and the travel and getting to play all over the world.”

Australian amateur Kelsey Bennett sits in solo third place on four-under-par after she signed for a round of 69 (-2) on the North course.

“I had some unfinished business out there on that course, after the first round where I was two-over,”said Bennett. “I found it good today. My clubs still aren’t here yet, but they should be tomorrow.

“I like it when the wind gets up, you have to create some more shots so if that is the case I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I am very relaxed this week. I don’t have to cook or clean or do my washing because my mum is here, so it’s perfect!”

Two shots behind in fourth place is Thailand’s Benyapa Niphatsophon, who carded a level par round on day three in Spain.

Four players sit in a share of fifth place with Mexico’s Alejandra Llaneza, Norway’s Michelle Forsland, Italy’s Clara Manzalini and England’s Billie-Jo Smith all on one-under-par.

Spain’s Teresa Toscano, Wales’ Amy Boulden and American Ashely Shim round out the top 10 and sit on even par after 54 holes.

On a day where the conditions were much calmer two players produced the round of the week with Italy’s Giulia Molinaro, who was on the South course, and Finland’s Karina Kukkonen, who was on the North course, both shooting rounds of six-under-par.

It was also a bogey-free day for the Italian, who is a two-time Olympian, as she rolled in six birdies on the third day at La Manga.

Molinaro explained: “I hit the ball very well, I think I might have hit all fairways and I hit 16 greens and the two that I missed were just barely a foot off the green. I obviously putted very well too. It was a very good day in general and everything worked, and it was very calm and peaceful.

“I’m definitely getting used to the greens, they’re two great courses. One is longer than the other and yesterday with the wind conditions, they played extremely difficult, but both courses are very nice and fun to play.”

Tomorrow sees the final round of the Pre-Qualifier – Europe where the top 62 and ties will make it to next week’s Final Qualifier.

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