Rachel Gourley maintained her position at the top to lead stroke play qualifying at the R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship at Fulford.
The 17-year-old carded a new women’s course record at the Yorkshire venue after an opening eight-under-par 66 and followed that with a steady level-par 74.
Gourley, a winner with England at the R&A Girls’ Home Internationals last week, progressed to the match play stages as the leading qualifier with her eight-under total, two shots ahead of compatriot Lottie Woad and Scotland’s Hannah Darling.
“It was quite testing for me today but I stayed patient and tried not to get too annoyed at bad shots,” said Gourley. “Eight under was a hard score to follow up but I knew something around level par would get me through the cut and onto the match play.
“I love the course. I’ve played it so many times. To be able to come and play a national championship here is good fun. I’ve just got to keep it going.
“I think my putting is a strength this week. It’s quite a difficult course and the greens are big so holing short putts and having pace control is the key for me.”
Darling, the highest-ranked player in the field and boosted by her Curtis Cup selection on Monday, continued her rich vein of form on the course after a bogey-free round of 70 to add to her 72.
Darling maintains form
The 18-year-old, who won the R&A Girls’ U16 Amateur Championship at Fulford in 2018, carded four birdies in her first 13 holes and passed up other good opportunities in the closing stretch.
🏌️♀️ @Hannahgolfer13 will be looking to build on her Semi-Final finish at The Women's Amateur at the Girls Amateur this week 👀— The R&A (@RandA) August 11, 2021
Follow her progress here 👉 https://t.co/4YYVVNOR61 pic.twitter.com/v3bFyKZCUl
Darling said, “My first target has been met to reach the match play. I’ve done that pretty comfortably and I felt like I left a few shots out there as well, so that is something to build on. I had a few putts that didn’t drop, but I’m not worried about it and felt I still rolled them nicely.
“I’ve felt a little bit of extra pressure this week with the Curtis Cup announcement and there have been a few cameras around, which is always nice. But I’ve tried to stay focused and grounded. It’s great news and a big thing for me but the job is to play the tournament this week.
“I’m happy enough with how I played and I’ve won here before. The goal is to do that again and I’ll look to keep doing what I’m doing.”
In pleasant conditions for the 92nd staging of the championship, Woad finished on the same six-under-par mark as Darling after back-to-back rounds of 71. The 17-year-old is clearly in confident mood, achieving 12 birdies in her 36 holes – the best birdie record in the field.
“I’m very happy to get through,” said Woad. “I had to play well again and managed to add another 71. I played in the Under-16s the two years the championship was here so I know the course, but with slightly different tees this year. I know where to go and where not to.
“I won the Home Internationals with the England Girls’ team last week – it was good to get match play practice before this week – so was my goal to progress to the knock-out stages here. I was unbeaten last week so I’ve hopefully gained in confidence for match play.”
The leading 32 players progressed to tomorrow’s match play stage, with the cut falling at seven over par.
Two other in-form English players also qualified comfortably, Maggie Whitehead and Patience Rhodes, with Ireland’s Beth Coulter – runner-up to Darling in 2018 –and Swiss sisters Ella and Victoria Levy also securing a last-32 spot. The youngest player in the field, Roisin Scanlon, 13, is into the match play format too.
The last staging of the Girls’ Amateur in 2019 was won by Slovenia's Pia Babnik – the teenager already a Ladies’ European Tour winner in 2021 – with past winners also including Suzann Pettersen, Azahara Munoz, Anna Nordqvist and Georgia Hall.