The R&A - Working for Golf

Belgium's Cloots take the lead at Dundonald

Her first ever hole in one helped Leslie Cloots, 21, from Antwerp, Belgium to go clear of the field with a one-under-par round of 71 in windy conditions for the first qualifying round of the Ladies' British open amateur championship at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire, Scotland today.

"I took an eight-iron with a threequarters swing off the tee at the short sixth (145yd) because the wind was helping at that hole. And the ball hit the green and ran into the hole," said Leslie, who has one more year to go at North Carolina University.

"I've never even had a hole in one in a practice round before so to get my first ace in the 'British' and to lead the field is great."

Cloots' ace came in a purple patch of five under par over a span of four holes. She had a birdie 4 at the long fifth, then the hole in one at the sixth, followed by birdie 3s when she hit close at both the seventh and eighth.

Golf can be a funny game - Leslie had been three over par after two holes with a bogey at the first and a three-putt double bogey 6 at the second.

"The wind doesn't just affect the shots you hit in the air, it also blows your putts offline and I had more problems on the greens today than I had with my other shots," said Leslie who was beaten finalist in this championship at Royal St George's two years ago.

"I also three-putted the short 13th for a bogey because the wind blew my ball way off line."

But Cloots did hole a 30-footer for a birdie on the 13th and got a great birdie 3 at the 17th after being in the long grass on the right from her drive.

"I hit a six-iron from the rough on to the green from about 125 metres' range and holed the 4 metre putt. That birdie 3 gave me almost as good a feeling as the hole in one did earlier!" she said.

Leslie Cloots 2 with hole in one
Leslie Cloots 2 with hole in one

But the up and down nature of her round continued to the last which she bogeyed with a visit to the water at that downwind hole.

Cloots, who is fluent in French, English, Dutch, German and Chinese, probably has a word for it to sum up a round that made her favourite to achieve the top seeding for the match-play.

France's Shannon Aubert, in the last group to finish after 8pm, shot a par 72 to slip into second place, cutting Cloots' lead to one stroke.

Aubert was actually leading the field when she went out in two-under-par 34, the lowest of the day, but she dropped shots at the 10th, 13th, 16th and 17th as the wind continued to make play difficult. Birdies at the 11th and 18th kept Shannon in the mix.

Sharing third place on one-over 73 are four players: two from Spain in Harang Lee and Maria Parra, No 3 in the women's world amateur rankings and winner of the European women's amateur title last summer, plus Hannele Mikkola (Finland), 22,and Connie Jaffrey (Troon Ladies), playing in her native Ayrshire

Parra, an 18-year-old Madrid college student from Sotogrande, dropped four shots over the last two holes and still finished with a 73.

She bogeyed the 17th and then ran up a disastrous triple bogey 8 at the par-5 18th after a five-under-par run in the middle of her round with birdies at the fifth, sixth, ninth, 14th and 16th.

Parra, beaten semi-finalist in last year's Girls' British open amateur championship at West Kilbride, had looked set to forge past the clubhouse leader when she finished: Hannele Mikkola.

Mikkola was rock solid in the wind that blew many others off course for a place in the leading 64 players who will advance to the match-play stages after the 36-hole stroke-play eliminator will remove 80 players from the championship.

Hannele had bogeys at the par-4 second and the short 11th before she birdied the long 18th. Add 15 hard-fought pars to that and it was an excellent start by the Finn. Jaffrey looked completely out of it when she turned in six-over-par 42 but it was the classic "game of two halves." The former GB and I international had a bogey-free, four-birdie inward half of 32, which was not bettered on this longest day of golf - from 6.30am until after 8pm.

Several players managed to cover the opening nine holes in one-under 35 but came to grief on the inward half. For example, Gudrun Bjorgvinsdottir from Iceland took 44 blows to get home and return a seven-over 79.

She birdied the second, sixth and ninth in her outward 39 but the supply of birdies dried up for her after the turn. Gudrun had double bogeys at the 12th and 15th and four single bogeys.

Sweden's Beatrice Wallin was another who got out in one-under 35 and then took 40 shots for the inward nine and a 75.

Of the six Curtis Cup players from Dun Laoghaire in action - five GB and I, one American - Bronte Law (Bramhall) and Olivia Mehaffey (Royal Co. Down Ladies) fared best with matching 74s. Even their halves of 37-37 were identical. Law birdied the 11th and 13th but had two bogeys either side of these highlights. Meghan MacLaren (Wellingborough), Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell) and Alice Hewson (Berkhamsted) of the GBI side and America's Monica Vaughn had disappointing scores. MacLaren, Vaughn and Maguire all had 77s, Hewson a 79.

MacLaren had birdies at the third and 18th but on the debit side she had seven bogeys in halves of 39-38.

Alice Hewson had no birdies at all to offset a double bogey 6 at the seventh and bogeys at the first, 10th, 13th, 15th and 17th in halves of 39 and 40.

New Scottish champion Ailsa Summers (Carnoustie Ladies) had two birdies but still returned a nine-over 81. Ailsa had gains at two par-5 holes, the fifth and 18th in halves of 40 and 41.

Charlotte De Corte (Belgium) beaten by the eventual title-winner, Celine Boutier (France) in the semi-finals of this championship at Portstewart 12 months ago, will need to step up a gear if she is to reach the match-play stage this week.

She had a 10-over-par 82 after an error-strewn outward half of 44.