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In The Bunker with Mick the Grip

PREMIER XI JINPING’S CLAMPDOWN on the building of golf courses in China meant the loss of many years’ hard work and investment for western course architects.   Renowned designer Brian Curley lost several high profile courses, including Sunshine Hills and the 54-hole Stone Forest International Country Club, Yunnan.

Tom Doak had been 3 years building Simapo Island course in southern Hainan Province, which has warm winters and was envisaged as a tourist hub for Asian golfers, but a halt was called by central government, citing improper use of water and arable land.

Courses had often been built as part of luxury housing developments and described as “leisure facilities” while local governments looked the other way.  But Xi Jinping was concerned about corruption by unscrupulous entrepreneurs. “Like fancy cars and mansions, golf is a tool that businessmen use to hook officials,” one state-owned newspaper said.  But golf is the passion of many Chinese people and the luxury golf clubs were not going to go away.

In October (Virus permitting) the Asia Pacific Golf Group will be holding the 2020 World Golf Expo in China.  The three day exhibition, open to the golf trade and consumers, will be held at the Mission Hills Golf Club, Haikou, a complex of 22 18-hole courses.  It will comprise a two-day high-level business summit and The Asian Golf Awards.

World class tournaments like The WGC-HSBC Champions (won in 2019 by Rory McIlroy) are held at Sheshan Golf Club near Shanghai, an oasis of pure air and unbelievable luxury, with a joining fee of around £300,000. The Tuscan imitation villas sell for up to £30m and are amongst the most valuable area of retail property in the world.

All this is no consolation to Brian Curley, several of whose courses now stand deserted.  Remembering Stone Forest, which he had designed near a World Heritage Site, he said nostalgically: “It was stunning, with sharp and hazardous rocks, and the open areas and thorny bushes were thick with spider webs with massive spiders, so walking the site was a bit of an adventure.”

On second thoughts, perhaps golfers won’t miss Stony Forest so much after all.

TO RAKE OR NOT TO RAKE. Most of the players in this area never rake the bunkers anyway so we won’t notice any difference!

TIGER WOODS WAS ELECTED to join the World Golf Hall of Fame in March, although he won’t be inducted until December, when he turns 45.

Tiger won his first major by 12 shots with an 18 under par at the 1997 Masters, and added 82 PGA Tour victories and 13 more majors over the next 11 years, including four in a row (the “Tiger Slam,”)  before winning his 15th last April at Augusta.

He also holds a number of PGA Tour records including the most cuts made in a row (142) and most weeks spent atop the world golf rankings (683.)  He’s probably done enough to earn the honour.  My wife says perhaps now he’ll stop spitting all over the course.

THE PGA TOUR plans to resume on 11th June at Colonial Country Club for the Charles Schwab Challenge followed by the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town on the 18th.  Both events will be spectator-free.   Fans will be disappointed, but at least they will be spared a close-up view of the ghastly plaid jackets they stick on the winners of both events.

Lockdown letter:   With so much cooking, I recently bought a meter to measure indoor pollution levels and observed high readings of PM2.5 particles when my wife was frying steak.

The link between PM2.5 particles and ill health is similar to that between smoking and lung disease, there is no safe level to avoid long-term risks.  However, I can confirm that there are severe immediate health risks associated with criticising my wife’s cooking.

 Until next time: getting back to Happy Golfing.

Contact Mick for regripping and repairs.  638 859 475.

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How To Prepare Yourself To Train For Playing Golf

Many expert golfers didn’t acquire their skills in one night. In particular, pro golfers buy and use the right gear and practice frequently. That way, these players can be at the top of their game for each casual or official match. Here are the four tips to help you prepare for playing golf:

Buy a Golf Bag

Perhaps you may already have a set of golf clubs and you’re thinking about buying a golf bag to bring all your golf gear with you. 

It’s safe to say that any person who plays golf regularly knows the importance of the ideal golf bag. However, the market sells various shapes, sizes, and designs of golf bags. When shopping for an excellent golf bag, consider essential factors like:

  • The number of pockets to hold necessities, such as golf balls, tees, and towels.
  • A comfortable golf bag strap. 
  • The existence of golf bag legs to act as a stand when you’re not carrying it. 

You can go through the internet to help you choose the right golf bag for your specific needs. Sites like CherryWoodGolfClub.com has lists that can help you choose the best golf bag according to your preferences. 

Find a Golf Mentor

Both beginners and veteran golfers may need help in improving their game. A golf mentor or a coach is an expert that also acts as policy enforcers, role models, cheerleaders, and friends to other golfers. These golf experts also know how to improve your skills. Here are the traits to look for in a mentor or a coach :

  • Has a sincere desire to spend time and effort to enhance your skills in the sport.
  • Good active listening and communicating skills.
  • Has the ability to see issues while seizing opportunities to give solutions.
  • Knows how to respect other people.
  • Empathetic
  • Flexible

Your chosen golf coach can make a significant improvement in how you play golf, especially if you’re planning to join tournaments. Invest in hiring an established coach, and you should see yourself hitting the ball more frequently than usual instead of making it fly out of bounds. 

Stay Fit

Many people make the mistake of seeing golf as a casual, low-impact sport. Although some sports require significant muscle movements, golf doesn’t require participants to run, jump, or sprint. However, proper health and fitness still play vital roles in helping golfers prepare for each game. 

Stay fit by incorporating exercise to your daily routine to help you maintain proper golfing form. Some activities that you need to integrate to your regular workout routine include:

  • Stretching

Stretching helps improve flexibility for golfers. A flexible golfer has a reduced risk of getting injured when doing swings. If a golfer has limited flexibility, chances are their upper body is rid of and it will be difficult to swing the club. 

  • Core Exercises

Maintaining core stability and strength will improve a golfer’s swinging performance. Try to incorporate exercises like planking and bent knee presses to help improve core strength. 

  • Cardiovascular Exercises

Golf requires a lot of walking, especially if you don’t plan on buying or renting a golf cart. Walking across nine or 18-hole courses can take a toll on your body, particularly if you get winded from walking to the first hole. 

Include cardiovascular exercises like jogging, running, or High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to ensure you don’t get out of breath from walking long distances. 

Also, remember to warm up five to ten minutes before each golf game. Warming up will “awaken” the muscles and joints, thereby reducing injuries and improving your cardiovascular endurance as you golf. 

Practice Your Swing

You don’t need to go to a nearby golf course every day to practice your swings. All you need is a relatively ample space in your place to practice your golf swings. 

Start practicing by:

  • Optimizing Golf Techniques

Check your position in front of a mirror and then perform a stable swing five times in a row. If you can achieve swinging five times without an error, you can proceed to the next phase. 

  • Perfecting the Impact

Practice the experience of feeling the impact by draping a towel over your club and hitting some balls. Start in a set-up position, then make the backswing by pressing forward against the cloth. You should find that the more force you generate, the more your body needs to rotate. 

  • Master the Basics

Advanced techniques are nothing if you don’t master the basics. Ensure that your grip, posture, and alignment are good. Follow proper golfing posture, and you reduce the risk of falling into lousy swinging habits.

Remember to buy the right golf bag, hire a professional mentor, stay fit, and practice how you swing your club to prepare to play for golf matches. Let these tips help you become a better golfer, regardless of your current skill level. 

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Mike Probert talks golf – Golf Courses and Covid-19

‘Mike Probert talks Golf – (Sponsored by Costa Blanca Green Fee Services).

Here on the Costa’s golf is one of the biggest leisure time activities for both tourists and resident alike and with this in mind we have secured the services of Mike Probert of Costa Blanca Green Fee Services to provide a weekly round-up of local golfing events and topics and in conjunction with us at THE LEADER will provide discounted golf prices to all of our readers and run our golf competitions.

Golf Courses and Covid-19

Last week we reported that following discussions between the Spanish Golf Federation, Golf Directors Association and the Spanish Government that golf courses could re-open as from the 11th May 2020 subject to special restrictions under the umbrella of a security protocol and travel only allowed within the province that the players live.

During the last week a number of local courses have opened under the above safety protocols but there was an additional restriction because as some golf courses are in areas still in phase 0, players can only now travel and play golf courses in their own health authority and this has caused some confusion.

Vistabella in particular is right on the border of two health authorities and many players have been reluctant to travel there because of possible fines from the police but having spoken with the course management yesterday it appears that players from both the Orihuela and Torrevieja health authorities are allowed to travel there to play and the management team there will shortly issue and instruction to confirm this.

Below is an update on the situation at local golf courses:

Alicante Province

Don Cayo and Puig Campana are open.

Bonalba and El Plantio are ready to open when in phase 1 but Alicante will remain closed while they conduct extensive re-construction of the greens

Font Del Llop could open on the 18th May 2020.

Campoamor,La Marquesa,Las Colinas,Lo Romero,Vistabella and Villamartin are all open but La Finca and Las Ramblas will remain closed.

Murcia Province

El Valle,Hacienda Del Alamo,Mar Menor and Saurines are open but Alhama, La Torre and Hacienda Riquelme will remain closed.

Lorca will re-open from 19th May 2020 and La Serena from 20th May 2020.

Roda could open on the 18th May 2020.

We at THE LEADER are committed to providing to our golfing readers affordable golf without the need to join a club or apply for a card but simply contact the number below to have instant access to discounted golf prices, many of which are exclusive to us:

The deals shown in the table are some of the best POST COVID-19 PRICES currently available to you:

Golf Course Price Comments
Alenda €64 Green Fee (course temporarily closed)
Altorreal €55 Green Fee (course temporarily closed)
Bonalba €40 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €28)
Campoamor €65 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €29)
Don Cayo (Altea) €46 Green Fee + single buggy or pull trolley or elec. trolley
El Plantio €60 Green Fee (course temporarily closed)
El Valle €59 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €20)
Font Del Llop €59 Green Fee (course temporarily closed)
Hacienda Del Alamo €35 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €15)
La Manga Courses €75 Green Fee (course temporarily closed
La Marquesa €42 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €15)
La Sella €40 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €35)
La Serena €47 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €20)
Las Colinas €68 Green Fee (9am to 2pm – single occupancy buggy €30)
Lorca €34 Green Fee (8.30am to 10.30am)
Lo Romero €50 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €36)
Mar Menor €35 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €15)
New Sierra Golf €36 Green Fee (course temporarily closed)
Puig Campana €49 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy = €26)
Roda €60 Green Fee (course temporarily closed)
Saurines €35 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €15)
Villamartin €55 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €38)
Villaitana Poniente €67 Green Fee (course temporarily closed)
Vistabella €53 Green Fee (single occupancy buggy €30)

*Most courses may allow shared buggies for couples that have self-isolated in the same accommodation and as for more details for these.

For Bookings and more information contact Mike at info@costa-blanca-greenfees.com or direct on 966 704 752 or 661 345 931 quoting reference LEADER.

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Golfers back on course on the Orihuela Costa

As reported on last Monday’s Leader, golf courses in the area are once again open to the public.

Orihuela City Council has reported that 4 of the 5 golf courses located on the Orihuela Costa have reopened their facilities within the framework of “Phase 1” of the process of de-escalation with the agreement reached between the Secretary of State for Tourism and the different Autonomous Communities.

All of the courses must have material protection resources recommended by the health authorities in order to prevent the spread of the virus (masks, gloves, protective glasses or face masks) and limit their services to those that they can offer within the rules allowed in phase One.

The Spanish Golf Federation, Golf Directors Association and other key members of the golf industry have been in contact with the Spanish Government and have been issued to clubs regarding necessary protocols.

The standard security protocol is as follows:

1)            Golfers can only travel to and play golf courses in the province in which they live.

2)            Respect the measures in place at the course.

3)            Make reservation through an agent or on-line.

4)            Payment to be made on-line.

5)            Buggies will be single occupancy (some courses may allow spouses to share a buggy if the couple co-habit and have isolated together).

6)            If you use your own trolley disinfect it before and after the game.

7)            Arrive at the course ready to play as changing rooms will be closed.

8)            Don’t congregate in groups at the course.

9)            No hugs, high fives, kisses and handshakes.

10)          Maintain social distancing during the game

11)          Play will be permitted in four balls.

12)          Go direct to the tee 5 minutes before your start time.

13)          Play ready golf and keep your place on the courses as groups can’t be called through.

14)          Don’t touch fountains, benches, toilets and ball cleaners around the course.

15)          No rakes will be available but use feet to leave the bunker in the best condition for those following.

16)          Don’t touch the flag which must remain in the hole and allow gimmies within a standard putter grip length.

17)          Holes will be fitted with a device to stop the ball falling to the bottom of the hole.

18)          Don’t clean your clubs at the course.

19)          It is highly recommended that you go straight from the golf course to your car and then home.

It is recommended that golfers print off the above list and refer to it regularly as they are playing their round.

The golf courses to reopen locally are: Real Club de Golf Campoamor, Villamartín, Las Colinas, Vistabella.

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In The Bunker with Mick the Grip

THE (HERO) INDIAN OPEN will be held on March 18th at the DLF Golf Club near Delhi.  The first Indian Open was won in 1964 by Peter Thomson, who had inaugurated it after realising India’s potential as a golfing destination.  Thompson won  again in 1966 and 1976, and in 1970 the Indian Open joined the  Asia Golf Circuit.

The  field increased in strength with notable winners such as three time major champion Payne Stewart.  Defending Champion this year is  Stephen Gallacher.

The DLF Golf Club was originally designed by Arnold Palmer, but in 2015 a new course, designed by Gary Player was opened, incorporating some of the original holes.  The result has been called ‘The most bizarre course in golf,’ with waterfalls, an island green, sheer bunkers and a rock quarry.

It is also known as one of the most challenging, especially the 14th, which  was originally a 550-yard dogleg par four with a 250-yard carry to a narrow fairway.  The players could not play it (poor lambs) so the European Tour was forced to move the tee up to 461-yards.

THE FIRST GOLF CLUB IN INDIA was founded in 1829 and named the Dum Dum Golf Club, later the Royal Calcutta Golf Club.    The Amateur Golf Championship of India, the 2nd oldest in the world after the Open, was first held there in 1892, players came from Ceylon, Burma, Penang & Singapore.

At the RCGC Colonel Bufton-Tufton could have a round of golf in the morning before a spot of pig-sticking in the afternoon.  Life must have seemed flat back in Budleigh-Salterton after that.

LOCAL EUROPEAN TOUR PLAYER Bradley Dredge, who is based at La Finca, retained his tour card at Q school at Lumine in Southern Spain, being one of 125 players hoping to finish in the top 25.  He eagled the 18th in style to qualify by one point.  Whoever said golf was relaxing?

GRAEME MCDOWELL, who recently claimed his first European Tour title since 2014 by winning the Saudi International, will host the Irish Open on May 18th at Mount Juliet, County Kilkenny.  Rory McIlroy and several other PGA Tour players say they will definitely be playing,  but as the organisers have threatened to make everyone wear masks if the Coronavirus continues it will be a hell of a job to know who’s winning.

WHEN RORY MCILROY asked Brad Faxon for a putting lesson, Brad told him to try putting from 8 ft with his putter, a sand wedge and a 5-wood.  Out of nine putts Rory holed one with the putter, two with the sand wedge and three with the 5 wood.  Brad told him: “These days they will tell you that you must have the right length putter with the correct lie and correct loft.

Your  5-wood has 19 degrees of loft and is 10 inches too long and you’ve just holed three in a row, so you need to get back to playing instinctively.”   McIlroy said afterwards:  “Unbelievable, after that one session I went to Bay Hill and had the best putting week of my career.”   This month his  patchy back nine at Riviera included a  triple -bogey.  Back to the drawing board.

TAYLOR MADE SAY their new Truss putters are revolutionary, although Callaway have tried something similar before.    The mallet and blade putters connect both front and rear of the  putter head to the shaft,  supporting  the putter in the same way roof trusses support and strengthen a roof.  This improves stability, especially on short putts.  Perhaps Rory needs a Truss

ELVIS PRESLEY’S GOLF BUGGY, estimated price $60,000.  is to be auctioned online by the Graceland Foundation.   Elvis was not a golfer, he bought the 3-wheeled white Harley-Davidson buggy, number plate 1.ELVIS, in 1967,  and used it to travel around his 14 acre home in Graceland, Memphis.   Described as having: ‘slightly worn tyres and scratches to the exterior, and needs some servicing to become operational.’ (In other words it won’t go.)

Until next time, Happy Golfing.

Contact Mick for re-gripping and repairs. Tel.  638 859 475.

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Focus on legendary golf star Seve Ballesteros

  • In Part 2 of Spain late legendary golf star Seve Ballesteros’ career Andrew Atkinson returns to the 1979 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes and to where it all began in his hometown of Pedreña, in the northern coastal region of Cantabria.

“Severiano Ballesteros was like a racehorse; he loved to have the bit in his mouth and to take off and run.  Seve was a great frontrunner, because he played without fear, or so it seemed” – Hale Irwin.

Ballesteros, one of four boys, grew up in the hills above Pedreña, sleeping in a bedroom above livestock stables in a house built by his great-grandparents in the 1880s.

Seve played a role in looking after the family’s 14 milking cows, while his mother, Carmen, ran the household and tended gardens. His father Baldomero fished and worked the land. A simple life.

Pedreña was like the St Andrews of Spain during Seve’s youth. In Pedreña everyone played golf – a pastime in bars – and it became a way of life for him.

Pedreña is situated across the bay from Santander, in waters that evokes San Francisco, where the Spanish Royal family went on vacation at the Palacio de La Magdalena.

King Alfonso XIII was a keen golfer, and ordained a golf course to be designed – for his holidays – at a price. In Pedreña almost 300 small farms, including the one owned by Seve’s maternal grandfather, surrendered their land.

Real Golf Club de Pedreña opened in 1928, with the King serving as an Honorary President. Seve’s home was within driving range of the course, so much so, he hit balls from their sloping front yard down the hill and over a rock wall to the second green!

Seve, aged six, along with his brothers, caddied at the club where the head professional was their maternal uncle Ramón Sota, a player who tied sixth at the 1965 Masters.

Seve Ballesteros died, aged 54, in 2011, of a cancerous brain tumor
Seve Ballesteros died, aged 54, in 2011, of a cancerous brain tumor

In his youth Seve was handed down a 3-iron head and scavenged for sticks, jamming them into the head, prior to soaking the makeshift shaft to swell the wood, to fit tighter within the hosel. The shaft often lasted a couple of days – before snapping.

Caddies were allowed to play Real Pedreña once annually, and Seve took the opportunity with purloined balls, creating his own course. Seve even played in moonlight!

He tied handkerchiefs onto branches and planted them into the ground. Seve repeated the format, making holes in a meadow in the hills, and on the beach near the marina in Pedreña. Seve also ventured to nearby Somo beach, surrounded by scrubby dunes – similar to what he encountered at Royal Lytham.

Seve said: “It was a very strange experience to walk around a golf course at night, because all the reference points that help estimate distances vanished.

“I knew where the shot was heading from the way my hands felt the hit and from the sound the ball made when it hit the ground. By practicing at night I learned to feel the grass under my feet, to measure distances intuitively and adjust the power of the strokes I wanted to make.”

Aged 10, Seve finished second in his flight in Real Pedreña’s caddie tournament. Aged 12 he shot 79, to win.

Dubbed a ‘magician and a special talent’ club stewards allowed Seve unlimited playing privileges.

Seve joined his brother Manuel on the Euro tour in 1974, aged 16, sponsored by a wealthy Madrid physician. In 1976 Seve played in the Open Championship.

In 1979 Seve won the Open Championship – with commentary rallied to Pedreña, via phone. Their own village boy had won the biggest tournament in the world.

The headquarters of the Seve Ballesteros Foundation are in Santander, where the airport is named after him.

In situ in a park in Pedreña a faux-Swilcan Bridge and bronze statue captures Seve’s iconic fist-pump that followed his victorious birdie on the 72nd final hole of the 1984 Open Championship, at the Old Course.

Seve Ballesteros died, aged 54, in 2011, of a cancerous brain tumor. At the family home in Pedreña, Seve’s son Miguel, said: “When we are here it allows us to feel closer to my dad.”

At Real Pedreña’s annual Campeonato de Caddies, Seve, in all black, aged 13. COVER PHOTO: COURTESY THE BALLESTEROS FAMILY

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In the driver’s seat: Seve’s car park win at Royal Lytham and St Annes!

Quesada Gym
Quesada Gym

SPAIN late, great, golfing star Seve Ballesteros remains the only golfer to win two Claret Jugs at Royal Lytham and St Annes in Lancashire.

Turning the clock back I have returned to Royal Lytham, a drive away, from my home city Preston, to reminisce on golf’s most beloved son, Seve Ballesteros.

Seve, who completed a second of four courses of chemotherapy at Madrid’s La Paz Hospital in February 2009, won his maiden Major triumph at Royal Lytham in 1979, with his second round 65 having put him into contention for glory.

Seve, aged 22, made four birdies in the last five holes – risking all – as he played his round on the greens.

The blustery, gale force, wind-swept conditions, blowing off the Irish Sea unfazed Seve, having practised as a boy on the hills and beaches, surrounded by sand dunes in and around the family home in Pedrena.

Former world number one, winner of 90 Major international tournaments, including five Major championships, Seve was famed for playing with no fear.

At the 16th hole at Royal Lytham, in the final round, Seve encapsulated his first Major. He had only hit 9 of 72 fairways across his four rounds with his driver.

At the 16th tee – a blind shot – Seve, having a two shot lead, hit his drive, which veered off to the right – ending up in a temporary car park.

A huge crowd flocked to find Seve’s ball, with the man himself finding it underneath the front bumper of a blue Sedan car!

Seve was granted a free drop away from the cars, in an area with flattened rough – due to it doubling-up as a car park.

With a good lie guaranteed, Seve produced a lovely chip to ten feet, and drained the putt for a birdie.

In the driver's seat: Seve's car park win at Royal Lytham and St Annes!
In the driver’s seat: Seve’s car park win at Royal Lytham and St Annes!

Hale Irwin, the third round leader, waved the ‘white flag’ up the last, as Seve went on to win his first ever Major title.  Irwin later donned Seve as the ‘car park’ champion!

Seve, winner of five Major championships during 1979-88, the Open three times and Masters, twice, returned to Royal Lytham in 1988, to win again.

Seve, born in Pedrena, Cantabria, Spain, part of the European Ryder Cup five times winning team, both as a player and captain, turned professional in March 1974, aged 16.

Seve, who retired in 2007, embedded in the World Golf Hall of Fame, winner of a record 50 European Tour titles, affectionately named his casa in Spain ‘Royal Lytham’.

Colin Maclaine, chairman of the 1979 Open committee said: “Seve preferred his own course, which mainly consisted of hay fields, car parks, grandstands, dropping zones –  and even ladies clothing!”.

Seve, the first Open champion from the Iberian Peninsular, became the first continental European title winner since 1907.  Royal Lytham 2019 was the first of Seve’s three Open titles.

At the prizegiving ceremony, Seve, diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in 2008, who died of brain  cancer in 2011, aged 54, said: “I play good from the rough. I have plenty of practice!”.

*Part 2 of Seve Ballesteros next week.

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Amy Boulden wins LET Qualifying School at La Manga

MURCIA, SPAIN – Jan 26, 2020: Amy Boulden will return to the Ladies European Tour in 2020 after winning Qualifying School at La Manga Club by three strokes from Magdalena Simmermacher and Alison Muirhead.

Boulden, the 2014 LET Rookie of the Year, closed the Final Stage with a round of five-under-par 68 on the South Course for a 90-hole total of 351, 10-under-par.

The 26-year-old from Llandudno in Wales, whose career best finish in six years on tour was second in the 2014 Lacoste Ladies Open de France, had set a personal target of 12-under-par for the marathon examination, but was happy with her score, especially after a week of changeable and challenging weather conditions.

She said: “I’m relieved. It’s always a tough week coming back to Q-School. I decided to play a bit on the Symetra Tour last year and didn’t manage to keep my LET card from the six events in which I played, so I was always planning to come back. I love playing in Europe, but you feel a bit of extra pressure once you’ve had your card and then lose it. It’s a big relief to have it.

“I’ve done quite a lot of swing work over the last year or so and I didn’t actually feel like I had my game today. I know I shot a good score but my iron-play wasn’t quite there. I putted well and I feel like all areas of my game are getting better and it’s just about confidence now. Hopefully I can kick on from here.”

Simmermacher, 23, from Buenos Aires, will become the second Argentinian member of the LET after sealing second spot, based on the best last 18 holes, with her final round of 68.

The 2019 LET Access Series player said: “I can’t believe it. I hit the ball well all week. Every single part of my game was good and I just kept trusting it. It’s really exciting that I’m going to play a full season.”

Muirhead, who topped the field in Pre-Qualifying at La Manga, which was her first tournament as professional, ended with a 71 to take the third card. The 21-year-old Scot, who lives in Dubai, said: “It feels amazing. I never expected this to be the outcome. To do last week and this week and finish first and second, I’m really pleased. It’s been a long two weeks and I’m excited for the tour and feel like I’m ready to be playing. Today, I didn’t have my A game, but I kept it together and sunk some big putts, which gave me a lot of confidence coming into the last five holes. Amy played spectacularly and it was amazing to watch and be part of it.”

Switzerland’s Kim Metraux, whose sister, Morgane, qualified in 14th spot, finished fourth on six-under-par after a closing 69 and said that she had come to Q-School without expectations.

“I have a status on the Symetra Tour, which gave me some relief that I knew I could play next year no matter what. It was good to be stress-free and I was quite relaxed during the round and focused on my game. It’s great to know that my sister qualified, too.”

Alice Hewson (69) from Hertfordshire in England took the final spot in Category 5c in fifth place on five-under-par.

She said: “It was really good out there. I got off to a really solid start and finally started holing some putts in the middle of the round. I had a couple of interesting holes coming in, but I stuck to my game plan the whole time and was aggressive coming down 18. I pulled it off.

“On 18, I had 200 to the pin, but I had a slight mudball, so I was between whether to go for it or not. I decided to go for it and hit a 3-wood about 35 yards right of the green, under a tree and over a bunker, so it was a challenging third shot, but I hit it to 45 feet and then nearly holed the putt, so it was good.

“It’s really special to get my full card, especially this year, with how many events the LET have got this year. It’s going to be a great opportunity and I’m excited to get travelling.”

The 15 players who qualified in Category 8a are Maiken Bing Paulsen from Norway, Sarina Schmit from Germany, Casandra Danielle Hall from South Africa, Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland, Anne-Charlotte Mora from France, Pia Babnik from Slovenia, Filippa Moork from Sweden, Carolin Kauffmann from Germany, Morgane Metraux from Switzerland, Sophie Hausmann from Germany, EunJung Ji from Korea, Gudrun Bjorgvinsdottir from Iceland, Tiia Koivisto from Finland, Charlotte Thomas from England and Monique Smit from South Africa.

Smit secured the 20th card with a birdie four on the second extra hole after a four-way play-off on the 18th against Manon Gidali from France, Leonie Harm from Germany and Mireia Prat from Spain.

The 2020 season gets under way on February 20 with the Australian Ladies Classic Bonville in New South Wales.

 

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Boulden and Muirhead share 72-hole lead

MURCIA, SPAIN – January 24, 2019: Amy Boulden and Alison Muirhead share the lead heading into the final round of LET Qualifying School at La Manga Club in Murcia.

The leaders are tied on five-under-par 283 after four rounds, including two rounds on the North and South Courses respectively. They are one stroke ahead of Charlotte Thomas.

All the action will come a gripping climax in tomorrow’s final round, to be played over the South Course, after which the top five players will earn LET Membership in Category 5c, offering entrance into virtually all of the 24 tournaments on the 2020 LET schedule and access to the €18 million prize money. Players from the 6th to the 20th position will be eligible for Membership in Category 8a.

Players who have made the 72-hole cut to the leading 60 and ties and finished in position 21st and below, will be ranked according to score and be eligible for Membership in Category 9b. Players that failed to make the cut after 72 holes, will be eligible for LET membership in Category 12a.

Boulden, the 2014 Rookie of the Year, is looking to regain her LET card after a year on the Symetra Tour. The 26-year-old from Llandudno in Wales moved into a share of the lead with a brilliant four-under 67 on the North Course, where she also shot 67 in the second round.

Amy_Boulden
Amy_Boulden

She said: “Today the putts went in. The last three rounds I’ve not putted that great. I think it was the second round where I shot four-under, but didn’t make any putts. I played really good, but didn’t really hole anything to shoot four-under. Today, I didn’t hit it as close, but holed more putts.”

“I do really like the North course, although we are playing the South Course tomorrow! I do like the South Course as well, they are both really different and are great tests of golf.

“La Manga Club is amazing. I have been here over the years quite a lot. I played in the European’s here years ago and have been here for a couple of Pro-Ams the last few years, so I know the courses pretty well. The complex is lovely, there are loads of places to eat, everyone is very friendly and considering the weather we had just before we started this week, they did an incredible job to get it ready for us.”

After a tough third round of 77 on the North Course, co-leader Muirhead was delighted to bounce back with a bogey-free three-under-par round of 70 on the South.

The 21-year-old Scot said: “It was really steady today and I enjoyed it. The conditions altered during the round so it was good to keep it steady and hit a lot of greens. I just kept lipping out for birdie, so it was very nice to see the ball rolling close today and to bounce back, especially after yesterday. I’m very pleased.

“I’m feeling really good heading into tomorrow. It’s obviously another day, but I feel like my putter is working well. I didn’t hole as many putts today, but you obviously save them for the next day, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Charlotte_Thomas
25/01/2020. Ladies European Tour. Final Stage Qualifying School. La Manga Club, South Course, Spain. Jan 22-26 2020 Charlotte Thomas of England during the fourth round. Credit: Tristan Jones

The best round of the day belonged to England’s Charlotte Thomas, who shot a five-under-par 68 on the South Course.

The 26-year-old from Guildford, who has played for two years on the Symetra Tour and a year on the LPGA, said: “I’ve played solid for the last three days and today I finally got some putts to drop and got some momentum going. I made some birdies, so it was really fun.

“I had a bit of a momentum swing on the ninth, because I was one-under through eight and then on nine, I missed the green from 90 yards and I chipped in for birdie and then I went birdie, birdie, on 10 and 11. That could easily have been a par or a soft bogey, but it turned into a birdie and gave me some momentum and I was able to carry it through. I feel like that was the turning point.”

Thomas has a full LPGA card for 2020 but is at LET Q-School with a view to becoming eligible to represent Europe in the Solheim Cup.

“Last year, I didn’t have LET membership, so I wasn’t even in contention to be able to be picked for it. I thought to myself, I better go and get my LET card and see what happens. That’s the two-year goal and it would be amazing to play,” she said.

“Watching it at Gleneagles, I was in Australia and watching it at 2 o’clock in the morning and running around the house screaming, so it was amazing to see that and so inspiring and it made me want to be out there and do that even more.

“I’m going to try and play in as many events as I can this year, to get as many points as I can. I’ll play a bit of both tours, LET and LPGA.

“The new LET schedule is amazing, it’s so cool. It’s so exciting and good for women’s golf to see that. I have played in a few LET events here and there in the past but to see that kind of growth is amazing.”

Rachel Drummond, whose round included a hole-in-one on the South Course’s 12th hole, made the cut on the number and was one of 65 players at 10-over-par or better to advance to the final round.

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HEWSON EAGLES THE ARNOLD PALMER 18TH HOLE TO LEAD AT LA MANGA

The wind picked up at La Manga Club and provided testing conditions with only six players out of the 120 Final Stage Qualifying field under par across at the resort in Cartagena, Spain. One player who didn’t struggle was England’s Alice Hewson who fired an impressive three-under-par 70 on the South Course to take the overnight lead.

In 1975, American legend Arnold Palmer famously finished with an eagle on the par-5 18th hole on the South Course to win the Spanish Open by one shot and La Manga Club dedicated the hole in honour of him. Like Palmer, Hewson finished the round in style with an eagle on the par-5 18th and jumped to the top of the leaderboard on three-under-par, one shot clear of Sweden’s Josefine Nyqvist and Scotland’s Alison Muirhead.

The 22-year-old European Ladies’ Amateur Champion, from Berkhamsted Golf Club commented: “It was a nice way to finish with an eagle, it was definitely a highlight. I split the fairway with my drive, I had 189 yards to the pin and hit a six iron to three feet.

“In the wind you just have to stick with your game and trust your swing and today I stuck to my processes and swing thoughts. I am going to approach the next two days like I have over the last couple of weeks. It’s all about hitting fairways and greens out there and giving yourself good opportunities. They will come, the North and South are not courses that you are going to go bogey-free every round. I’ve got to keep giving myself the opportunities and let the putts go in.”

Nyqvist, who graduated from Augusta University two years ago, posted a two-under-par 71 on the South Course to move into a share of second position on two-under-par. The 25-year-old was extremely happy with her round and reflected: “It was tough out there today so I just tried to keep the ball in play from the tee all the time, hit the greens and make my pars. I managed to roll in some birdies near the end, so that was a lot of fun.

“I was at Augusta University for four years and we got to play Augusta National once every year. That was amazing! La Manga Club resort is amazing too. Following the storm the greenkeepers did an incredible job, the courses are in great shape.”

It was a tough day for the overnight leader Muirhead who posted a six-over-par 77 on the North Course but she can still be buoyed by the fact that she sits in second place with two rounds to go. EunJung Ji, Amy Boulden and Sophie Hausmann finished the third day on one-under-par.

After the Final Round, the top five players will be eligible for LET Membership in Category 5c. Players from the 6th to the 20th position will be eligible for Membership in Category 8a. Players who have made the 72-hole cut to the leading 60 and ties and finished in position 21st and below, will be ranked according to score and be eligible for Membership in Category 9b. Players that fail to make the cut after 72 holes, will be eligible for LET membership in Category 12a and will be ranked in final score order.

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