Final four line-up in match play championship

Olivia Winning
A marathon game of 23 holes and an albatross helped decide tomorrow’s semi-finalists in the English women’s open match play championship at Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club. 
The first game will see two England internationals go head to head, with Olivia Winning (Rotherham, Yorkshire) taking on Lizzie Prior (Burhill, Surrey), who played 41 holes today to reach the final four. 
 
The other match features Cara Gainer (Castle Royle, Berkshire), who decided her first round game by holing her second shot on the par five 17th, and Sophie Newlove (Beeston Fields, Nottinghamshire), who played just 28 holes today. 
 
Olivia Winning (pictured top) was the 16th and last qualifier for the match play stages of the championship. But the international knew she was playing well and is vastly experienced, having helped England to become European team champions last year and twice won the Helen Holm Scottish open stroke play. 
 
This morning she tumbled the top seed, Hannah Screen (Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire) with a birdie on the 17th to get ahead again before confirming the 2 up win. “It was a really good game and we both played really well,” said Winning, who was never behind.
 
In the quarter finals she met England U16 girl international Mimi Rhodes (Burnham & Berrow, Somerset) and threw six birdies at her as she marched to a 5/3 win. “I played the kind of golf that’s hard to beat, it was good,” said Winning, who recently helped Yorkshire qualify for the English Women’s County Finals. “I’m really excited for tomorrow.” 
 
In the semi-finals she’ll meet Lizzie Prior, who was a fellow team-mate in England’s European triumph. She played 18 holes this morning to beat Bethan Morris of Wales in a spectacular finale to their round. Both birdied 15, Prior birdied 16, Morris eagled 17 and Prior birdied 18 to win 1up. 
 
In the quarter finals she met Alice Plumb (Sherborne, Dorset) and the duel developed into an endurance test when they finished 18 holes all square. Hole after hole was halved in par before Prior won the 23rd with yet another par (pictured above). “I thought it was going to keep going for a while,” she said. 
 
Prior, who is at university in the USA, is playing in this championship for the first time – and plans to use a different putter tomorrow. It’s an old favourite which temporarily fell out of favour but she says: “It’s got all my course records on it.” 
 
Cara Gainer (pictured right) was on show-stopping form as she moved through her games – winning her first round game with an albatross two on the par five 17th. She was playing the impressive 13-year-old Kate Bibby (The Els Club Dubai) and said: “It was a nice feeling to do that, it made it easy!” 
 
This afternoon she beat Emily Slater (Gog Magog, Cambs & Hunts) 2/1, coming from behind to win with a string of birdies. She chipped in on 13 to get back to one down, they halved 14 in birdies, Gainer won the 15th with a birdie to get all square and then holed a 25ft par putt to win 16 and get ahead, finishing off the match with another birdie on 17. 
 
Gainer is playing full-time this season having completed her geography degree at Cardiff University and has already won the Frilford Scratch Salver. “I’m enjoying it and just trying to play my best golf,” she said. 
 
Her opponent is Sophie Newlove (pictured right), who just missed out on a match play place in last year’s championship. This year she’s making up for lost time, finishing on the 13th this morning and following up with a 4/3 win over Kath O’Connor of Wales in the quarter finals.
 
“I played pretty solid in both rounds, I hit it good off the tee and then just tried to hit it as close as I could,” said Newlove, who is playing her first championships since returning from her US university for the summer break. 
 
“I’m excited about tomorrow,” she said. “I’ve got my mum on the bag and she’s not a golfer so we don’t talk about golf much, just enjoy it.” 
 
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