A trio of Italian players impressed on the opening day of the R&A Girls U16 Amateur Championship, with Francesca Fiorellini securing the slender early lead at Fulford.
The 13-year-old is competing alongside compatriots Charlotte Cattaneo and Matilde Innocenti Angelini as part of a 90-strong international field at the Yorkshire venue.
After Cattaneo tied sixth in last year’s inaugural championship, also finishing runner-up in the Under-14 category, it was Fiorellini who shone on her debut after carding a four-under-par 71.
With the early starters making the most of the bright yet windy conditions before rain showers made conditions tougher in the afternoon, Fiorellini holds a one-stroke lead over England’s Davina Xanh.
Two further English players managed to break par, with Rafiah Banday on two-under-par and Salysa Mason on one-under-par respectively.
“I played very well,” said Fiorellini, who bogeyed the 7th before responding with five birdies. “My long shots were very good and I putted well too. It was difficult in the wind but I felt I did okay. It’s a really nice course and I’m happy with my start. With three of us here from Italy, we are cheering each other on and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Cattaneo, the highest ranked player in the field, and Inncoenti Angelini are both well placed on level par in a share of fifth spot.
Xanh quickly reaped the benefits of a lesson at the start of the week with coach Scott Thompson at her club Mendip Spring in North Somerset. Despite going out of bounds at the par-5 9th for a triple bogey, she carded seven birdies and only one other dropped shot in her round of 72.
The 15-year-old said, “I’m pleased with my start. My putting was the difference as it made up for the mistakes I made with my driver. I had a lesson on Monday with Scott. I hadn’t been playing well but I’ve had immediate improvements this week.
“Playing in this event last year helped me, as I only managed to get seven holes in practice yesterday due to the weather. I had a good idea of where to go around the course.”
For one of the youngest competitors, there were also early smiles. Maggie Whitehead, from Close House GC in the nearby north-east, is only aged 12 but showed maturity beyond her years to sit inside the top 10 after starting with a solid one-over-par 76.
“I’m absolutely thrilled for where I am, at my age, after round one,” admitted Maggie. “I came here for experience and to be inspired by others and that’s what I’m enjoying so far.
“Coming with not the highest expectations, it gave me that extra confidence just to go out and shoot the best of my ability. I tried my best, grinded it out and I’m really happy to score one-over-par. I saw a few other scores and felt like I was doing well.”
The championship is a World Amateur Golf Ranking™ counting event for the first time, providing an extra incentive for the competitors representing 12 countries. The winner will secure a place in the R&A Girls Amateur Championship at Panmure GC in Scotland in August.
The 54-hole stroke play event was introduced last year as part of The R&A’s drive to boost the girls’ game in Great Britain and Ireland and beyond, as well as provide a pathway to the elite amateur level for leading young players.
Fulford enjoys a prestigious reputation as a championship venue, including staging the first ever Women’s British Open (then known as the Ladies’ British Open) in 1976, won by Jenny Lee Smith.
View round one scores here