Internationals Alex Peters and Gabriella Cowley lead the way in the English women’s amateur championship at Kings Norton, Worcestershire, with scores of one-under par 71.
They’re one clear of Dorset’s Sophie Keech, with British stroke play champion Sarah-Jane Boyd (Truro) a further stroke behind on 73.
They are at the top of a tightly packed leaderboard and their impressive scoring brightened a cold, grey day which grew steadily wetter as the hours passed. The course won many compliments but it tested the players with its long par fours and water features, which proved particularly challenging on the 16th and 17th.
However, Alex Peters (Notts Ladies’) opened her campaign to complete a ‘double’ of English championship titles with very tidy play.
The current English stroke play champion is enjoying the opportunity to contend for her second national women’s title and she drove the ball consistently well to set up a round which included two birdies and just one bogey.
“I hit the ball well, but I didn’t really hole anything – although the greens are really nice,” said Alex, who arrived at Kings Norton fresh from success in the Nottinghamshire ladies’ championship. “I gave myself lots of chances but I left quite a few out there. But there’s always tomorrow.”
Gabriella Cowley (Image © Leaderboard Photography) signed off her round with a birdie four on the 18th – thanks to an excellent up and down from the greenside bunker – and commented on her round: “It’s a really good start, it’s all about putting yourself in a good position.”
Her round started slowly, with an early three putt and a miss from 4ft. But she picked up the pace when she birdied the par five fourth, having hit the green with an eight iron for her second shot. “That gave me some momentum,” said the 17-year-old from Brocket Hall.
More birdies on the 10th, 11th and 13th – where she almost holed her third shot – took Gabriella to two-under, before she dropped shots on the 16th and 17th. In her case, it was the trees, not the water, which proved costly. She struck straight back with her final hole birdie and said: “I was glad I got it because I felt my play deserved it.”
Sophie Keech (Lyme Regis), also 17, suffered a knee injury during the winter and her solid, level par score underlined her return to form.
“My coach is always telling me to hit my targets, two putt the greens and walk off with a par – and that’s pretty much what I did. When I got in danger I hit the next shot on target. I played steadily and I’m really happy with that,” she said.
The host club is represented by two players, Debbie Warren and Charlotte Dalton, who both returned scores of 79. “It was tough out there,” said Charlotte, whose group had the worst of the weather. “All to go for tomorrow!” Meanwhile, 13-year-old Lucy Walton (The Worcestershire) defied back problems to score 80.
Among the other youngsters in the field are English U13 champion Hollie Muse (West Lancashire), who scored 78, and her predecessor Sammy Fuller, 14, (Roehampton) who returned 77.
All competitors will play the second round of the championship tomorrow. After that the field will be cut to the leading 32 players and ties who will play the final 36 holes on Thursday. Spectators are welcome.
Par 72 CSS 76
71 Gabriella Cowley (Brocket Hall), Alex Peters (Notts Ladies’)
72 Sophie Keech (Lyme Regis)
73 Sarah-Jane Boyd (Truro)
74 Hannah Moul (Stoke-by-Nayland) Jessica Wilcox (Blankney), Katrina Gillum (Lilleshall Hall), Aimee Wilson (Mickleover), Aimee Ponte (Royal Guernsey)
75 Chelsea Masters (Highwoods, Bexhill), Samantha Meese (South Staffs), Charlotte Pilkington (Southport & Ainsdale), Amber Ratcliffe (Royal Cromer)