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Incredible Gourley Leads Girls Amateur

Rachel Gourley continued her love for Fulford by breaking the women’s course record on the opening day of the R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship.

The 17-year-old carded an eagle, seven birdies and just one dropped shot at the Yorkshire venue to sign for an eight-under-par round of 66 – beating the previous best course record for women by four strokes. 

Gourley, a winner with England at the R&A Girls’ Home Internationals last week, highlighted her day with an eagle three at the par-5th 11th, striking a 3-wood approach to 18 feet.

In glorious conditions on the first day of 36-hole stroke play qualifying, Gourley has set the pace and is four shots clear of fellow English player Olivia Lee.

Incredible round

“It’s the best round I’ve ever had, by quite a bit as well,” said Gourley, attached to Arcot Hall Golf Club in Northumberland. “My best round before was five-under, so I’ve beaten it by quite a bit. I had some wayward drives over the last few holes, but I managed to drop the par putts and birdie the last.

“I love this course, I’ve played it so many times and to now be the female course record holder is incredible, it’s an honour. I’ve played it in the Girls’ Under-16s and we have done a few national training sessions here.”

A number of this week’s players competed in the R&A Girls’ U16 Amateur Championship at Fulford in 2018 and 2019, with the event introduced as part of the organisation’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.

That list includes Lee, who was pleased with her four-under-par start of 70. “It was a really solid round, I did hole quite a few good putts to finish birdie-birdie,” she said. “It is always nice to do that.

English hopes

“I played in 2018 and 2019 here at the Under-16s so it’s nice to come back to the course. It’s in good condition as it always is. It’s always a pleasure to play here. The rough is high but I managed to avoid most of it. I’ve had a pretty solid season so far with a few top-10s and top-fives.”

Five players carded three-under-par rounds of 71, namely English trio Maggie Whitehead, Lottie Woad, Anna Molloy, Darcy Harry from Wales and Switzerland’s Ella Levy.

Whitehead, recently crowned English Girls' Under-16 Open champion, said, “It was a really good day, I just played really steady and kept the ball in play off the tee which is a key thing around this course. I hit every green and holed a few putts when I needed to. I’m quite confident going into tomorrow, as I felt like I still left a few out there. 

“I know the course very well now. I played here in 2019 and it has really helped, I really enjoy the course. The experience in 2019 when I was playing gave me that boost of playing with girls your own standard in your own age group. I really enjoyed it back then and this event is one of my favourite events too.”

Darling in the hunt

On her Under-16 triumph, the 15-year-old added, “It was my first major win, so I was really happy about it. The weather wasn’t in anyone’s favour on the last day but I trained quite a lot through the winter, so it didn’t really phase me. I’m still over the moon about it now, it was a great win.”

Curtis Cup selection Hannah Darling, the highest-ranked player in the field, is well-placed on two-under-par following a 72. Another of the favourites, Patience Rhodes, opened with a 74.

The competitors returning the 32 lowest scores over 36 holes qualify for the match play stage on Wednesday. Ties for the last place(s) and all other ties for the automatic draw will be decided by card countback using the 18-hole second round score.

Girls' Amateur Championship Leaderboard