Day One – Women’s Amateur: Cool Kirby leads the way

Thalia Kirby refused to be blown off course as she defied the blustery conditions to card a brilliant opening round of 69 (-4) to lead the way in the English Women’s Amateur Championship.

The 19-year-old (pictured above) carded six birdies in her round on Woodhall Spa Golf Club’s Hotchkin Course to hold a three shot advantage over a chasing pack led by England Girls’ squad player Rosie Belsham.

Another England Girls’ international, Lottie Woad from Surrey, ended the day in third spot on her own after a one over par round of 73 on the Bracken Course.

Kirby got off to a flyer with birdies at her opening two holes and picked up another shot at the sixth.

A bogey at the seventh was remedied with a birdie at the ninth as she turned at three under par.

Into the teeth of the gale on the back nine, the player from Stoke Park Golf Club picked up further birdies at 15 and 17 and the only blemish was a bogey at 16.

After the round, Kirby said: “The opening birdies settled me down. The wind was really gusting and it almost blew me off my feet on one green.

“I’m really pleased with that and I’ll just try to take the momentum into tomorrow’s round.”

Belsham, from Whitley Bay Golf Club, has been in sparkling form since competitive golf recommenced after lockdown restrictions eased.

The 18-year-old has played in three events – winning two and only losing the other on a countback to England colleague Jess Baker.

An opening birdie at the first hole of the Hotchkin settled any lingering nerves and despite carding bogeys at the fourth and fifth, Belsham held her nerve.

With the gusting wind causing severe difficulties for the player as they turned for home and pondered the prospect of enduring a majority of holes into the breeze, Belsham was able to play steady, par golf and ensures the round finished all smiles with a birdie four at 18.

It could have been a little bit better – her 20-foot eagle putt on the par five 18th hole just needing one more revolution to topple into the cup.

“I’m pleased,” admitted Belsham (pictured below) after a relatively stress-free round.

“I expected the scores to be better than they are. I played steady golf and I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow.

“I just feel like I can’t make any mistakes at the minute and the putting is on top form. I did a lot of work over lockdown and worked hard on my short game.

“I was in the garden and played so many new games that I didn’t know existed!”

Another of the England Girls’ squad, Woad, had a good day on the par 72 Bracken .

The Surrey golfer was the epitome of steadiness throughout her round.

A birdie on the par three, seventh hole cancelled out a bogey at the first.

And just one more dropped shot on the way home allowed her to sign for a one over par total.

Defending champion Ellen Hume is handily placed after a first round of 75(+3) on the Bracken Course left her in a tie for sixth.

Also on that score is 2017 champion Lily May Humphreys who shot a three over par round of 76 on the Hotchkin.

Following 18 holes of stroke play on Wednesday on the opposite course from the one each competitor played on day one, the top 16 women will qualify for the match play.

All of the knockout games will be played over the Hotchkin course. Saturday’s final will be decided over 36-holes of match play.

Photograph credit: Leaderboard