Finland’s Kerttu Hiltunen holds a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the English U16 girls’ championship at Lyme Regis Golf Club – but English players are staging a strong charge to catch her.
It’s led by Northumberland’s Jess Baker (Gosforth Park Ladies) who shot her best ever round today of three-under 71 to move into second place. It made her five-under for the championship and after holing out in a torrential downpour she came off the course wreathed in smiles.
“I went into this round just wanting to post a solid score and stay up at the top,” said Baker, who was fourth overnight. “It’s really nice to get my name up there.”
“I tried to make as many pars and birdies as I could and my short game was where I scored,” she said. She started as she wanted and was two-under after the fifth, where she had the bonus of unexpectedly holing a difficult putt.
Two shots further back is Rafiah Banday (Royal Mid Surrey) who was a little disappointed to leave the course with a level par score.
“I was doing quite well until I doubled the 15th, which I eagled yesterday, and then bogeyed the next,” she said. However, the strong winds made the 16th a very tough proposition and Banday came quickly back with an 18th hole birdie and then played her back nine – holes one to nine – in level par.
Ellie Gower continued the English push with her one-under 73, which makes her level par at the halfway stage. Her round included an eagle on the seventh where she holed out from 25ft.
“It was tricky in the wind yesterday and it was harder today but I managed to keep it in play and keep out of trouble,” said the 15-year-old, who lives in France, where her parents have a nine-hole golf course.
Her father is a professional but his efforts to interest her in golf failed until he took her to the Lacoste French ladies open four years ago and one of the players gave her a golf ball. She also met English Tour player Ellie Givens and has caddied for her in the event ever since. “That kicked it off,” she said.
Behind her, there’s three more English girls: Daisy Kennedy (Stoke Park) on one-over, Hannah Golding (Brocton Hall) who was round in one-under today and is tied on two-over with Rosie Belsham (Whitley Bay).
However, Hiltunen is setting a great pace and would love to win this title. She’s bringing good form into this event, having won the U16 Hazards Salver at last week’s English U18 girls’ championship.
She opened her campaign at Lyme Regis with a first round of six-under 68 and followed up with today’s 72. She made the perfect start with an eagle three on her first hole, the 10th, but had a set back with a double bogey on the 14th. However she responded straight away with a birdie and played steadily for the rest of the round.
In the U14 girls’ championship, which is being played simultaneously, Harriet Lockley of Wales leads on two over. A shot behind is Italy’s Francesca Fiorellini, while a group on level par includes defending champion Charlotte Cannatteo.
The field in both championships was cut today to 33 players in the U16s and 28 in the U14s. The U16s will play 36 holes tomorrow while the U14s will play 18 holes.
Caption: top Jess Baker, below Kerttu Hiltunen (copyright Leaderboard Photography).