amateur golf
amateur golf


Sweden's Linda Ericsson battled through tough
conditions to record her best score on Tour for over three years and take the first round lead in the 163,000 Ladies French Open at Arras GC in
Northern France.

Ericsson carded a four under par 68 in the blustery wind and heavy rain and stole a one shot lead over Solheim Cup captain Dale Reid and Italian prospect Giulia Sergas.

The Arizona State educated Swede spent the winter in the USA preparing for
this season on Tour and was delighted that she has found her form so early.

"I usually start playing well at the end of the year, but after being in the USA, I feel I am actually playing better now - at the start of the year," said the 27-year-old from Falun.

"I have been playing very well lately, but I just haven't got my scores down. I was making stupid mistakes - I missed the cut by two in Italy and I don't think that I have played a whole lot better today than I did in Italy."

Starting at the tenth hole, the glamorous Swede bogeyed, but it would be her
only error on an otherwise faultless day and with birdies at the 14th and 17th, she turned in one under par.

More red figures followed at the fourth, sixth and eighth and the Swede has
her eyes on achieving her primary goal - to finish in the top ten for the first time on Tour since joining full time in 1998.

"I feel I am much more consistent, I am striking the ball much better and that is the difference from the last couple of years, she added.

"My goal for this year is to finish in the top 40 on the Order of Merit, but I know I am capable of getting into the top 10 too. Then there is the step from getting from there to actually winning - I know I can do it."

Reid, who successfully captained the Solheim Cup squad to a dramatic victory
on the shores of Loch Lomond last year, found her form in a Faldo-esque
performance around the tricky parkland layout.

Starting with ten straight pars, the 42-year-old from Ladybank fired a pitching wedge to eight feet to set up her first birdie of the afternoon in the howling wind and rain.

A drive and a three iron covered the length of the 470-yard par five 13th hole and two putts later, instead of her recent habitual three putts, she added another.

And at the 552-yard closing hole, the veteran found the lateral water hazard with her second shot, but luckily her ball survived on dry land allowing her to punch a nine iron close enough to lob in a final birdie.

"I played well three weeks ago in Italy, but I had 14 three-putts over the week," said an upbeat Reid.

"Take away 14 three putts and I would have finished joint third - Today, I had no three putts - I missed a few birdie chances, but had no bogey's.

"I was pretty steady, it was tough starting off with the rain and it was just a case of keeping my concentration and those hills around here are a doddle compared to Italy!" she quipped.

Sergas began the day at the 10th in the calmer conditions of the early afternoon and soared up the Leaderboard with a barrage of birdies.

The 21-year-old from Trieste reached two under par with birdies at the 13th,
chipping and putting at the short par five, and the 14th hole where she 'stiffed' an 8-iron for a tap-in.

A bogey followed at the tough 17th hole, but the La Perla sponsored player responded with three birdies in the next six holes to move to four under par. Only a closing bogey at the tough par four ninth prevented her from sharing the overnight lead.

"I have to thank my new caddie (Francesco Pegan), he was really good today -
there was a lot of wind out there today, it was really tough. I tried to be focused on each and every shot, otherwise it will blow your mind out there," said the adventurous Italian who loves her skydiving and snowboarding.

Australian Alison Munt, who also began on the back nine, set the early pace,
reaching a blistering six under par after 13 holes, turning in 32 with four birdies and added two more at the 152-yard third hole and the 451-yard par five fourth.

But the 34-year-old from Cairns dropped four shots in the last four holes, including a double bogey at the ninth.

Munt ties with Belgium's Valerie Van Ryckeghem who carded a respectable 70
having played in the worst of the morning conditions in sheet rain and a howling gale.

Also on two under is Spain's Laura Navarro, who, like Munt, began the day at
a fast pace, with birdies at five of the first six holes. But the 27-year-old from Madrid could not continue as she dropped shots at the ninth, 11th and 17th to tie for fourth alongside New Zealand's Lynnette Brooky, South African Laurette Maritz and France's local hero Karine Icher, winner of Q-School last November.

Bad news for England's Trish Johnson who withdrew from the tournament after
damaging her shoulder driving to France. The 35-year-old from Bristol has just recovered from a niggling tennis elbow injury and missed the early part of the season, and her bid to win her second Order of Merit title has taken
a blow.

Defending Champion Patricia Meunier Lebouc carded a disappointing four over
par 76 after struggling on the greens and will need to shoot a good score on
Friday to make the halfway cut.


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