Italy’s Teodoro Soldati and Belgium’s Diane Baillieux are tied for the lead heading into the third and final round of the Junior Open Championship at West Lancashire Golf Club.
It was a day of fine scoring in excellent conditions as the chief protagonists jostled for position all afternoon. By day’s end it was Soldati and Baillieux who set the pace with their respective rounds of 70 and 71 to lead on two-over-par 146.
In a tightly grouped leaderboard that left the pair one stroke ahead of a chasing trio including first round leader, Hugo Townsend from Sweden, who struggled on the greens for a 77 after an opening 70. Townsend was tied third alongside Ireland’s Kevin Leblanc (75), who found one too many bunkers, and Peru’s Felipe Strobach, whose three-under 69 was the low round of the day.
“Conditions were definitely easier compared to the first round,” said Soldati, who plays off plus three at Lanzo Golf Club. The 14-year-old made a slow start to turn in two-over 38 before storming home in four-under 32 with birdies coming at the 10th, 13th, 15th and 16th.
“I am really looking forward to the final round and will try my best to win. I’m also looking forward to The Open to see the best players in the world, hopefully I can learn from them,” said Soldati.
Baillieux enjoyed an eagle three at the fifth in a round that also contained three birdies and four bogeys. “I hit a massive drive at the par-five fifth and only had a short iron left to the green and holed the eagle putt,” explained Baillieux, who will seek out the “very beautiful” Adam Scott when she and the rest of the junior players get to Hoylake later in the week.
“This is a great tournament and it’s my first time competing in the UK. It’s a wonderful golf course and I’m enjoying the week.”
In more ways than one it was a great family day for twins, Anneke and Felipe Strobach from Peru. First of all Anneke enjoyed a hole-in-one at the 17th after playing a seven-iron which took a couple of bounces before finding the bottom of the cup. It was Anneke’s third hole-in-one.
Two groups later her brother recorded the day’s low round 69, which was helped by a run of three birdies from the fourth before he added another at the eighth to turn in four-under 32. The back nine was less rewarding despite making another birdie at the 10th, the plus one handicapper bogeyed the next two holes.
“That was a much better performance than yesterday, I managed to hole some putts and make some birdies,” said Felipe, who is firmly back in contention after an opening 78.
“My sister also had a hole-in-one so it has been a great day for the family and she is also in contention.” After a 76, Anneke finds herself inside the top ten, four off the pace on six-over-par in what could yet turn out to be an interesting contest between the Peruvian siblings.
Local favourite Hollie Muse gave a good account of herself with a second round 77, but the 14-year-old will have to go low to have any chance of winning the prestigious title on her home course.
“I need to shoot well under par tomorrow to try and get myself back up the leaderboard,” said Muse, whose best score around the testing links is 68.
With 75 countries represented in the under-16 championship, the top 80 players and ties made it through to the final round as the leading players look to join some illustrious names.
Previous winners of the biennial Junior Open include Sergio Garcia, who won the first event in 1994 and Patrick Reed, who won at Heswall in 2006, the last time The Open was staged at Royal Liverpool.
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