Virginia Espejo from Madrid
Virginia Espejo of Spain fired a six under par 66 on the Al Maaden Course in Marrakech, Morocco, on Friday to take a one stroke advantage after the second round of the final stage of Lalla Aicha Tour School.
Playing under sunny skies, Espejo reeled off eight birdies and two bogeys to reach 10 under par in the five-round marathon to determine playing categories for the 2013 Ladies European Tour season.
The Madrid-based professional went clear of two players at nine under: Swedish professional Camilla Lennarth and English amateur Emily Taylor, who shot rounds of 65 and 66 on the Amelkis course respectively.
Australian Sarah King and Katie Burnett of the United States, who both shot seven under par 65s on the Amelkis course, were a shot further back alongside Alexandra Vilatte who carded a 68 on the Al Maaden Course.
The 141 woman field is spilt over the Al Maaden and Amelkis Resorts over the first four days, playing two rounds on each of the courses. After 72 holes, a cut at 60 plus ties precedes the fifth and final round on the Al Maaden Golf Resort to decide the top 30 full cards plus ties on offer for the 2013 Ladies European Tour.
Espejo, a mathematician who graduated from Mississippi University a year ago, ironically relied on her caddie to keep her score.
“A million thanks to my caddie, because without him, I would not have been able to keep my score,” said Espejo, who turned professional in March 2012 and has played in around 15 tournaments on the LET Access Series and Spanish tours this season.
“I was having a very good round and I started to get nervous and play different, more conservative and he has convinced me that I was playing so well and hitting the ball so well, that I did not need to change things.
“At the beginning I tried to hit fairways and greens, forgetting about the pin positions and I tried to take advantage of the par fives that I can reach in two easily. I birdied three of the four par fives and hit 16 greens in regulation.”
Lennarth, who has been playing on the US Symetra Tour this season, had a spectacular finish to her second round when she had two eagles in her last four holes, at 15 and 18.
After dropping a shot at her first hole, she made four birdies from the fifth to the tenth and then picked up four more shots over her closing four holes.
The Stockholm-based professional said: “I’m very satisfied. I didn’t get off to a very good start. I was struggling, didn’t hit the ball very well and then just decided to let loose and not really think about the consequences too much. I holed a shot from 75 yards for an eagle on 15 and that helped the score and then I made eagle on 18, which also helps the score. Two eagles in one round!
“I rarely make eagles at all because I’m not a big hitter, so I usually don’t reach the par fives. I lay up and then I hit a wedge in. I hit a wedge into 15. On 18, I hit the second shot on the green and it rolled up to maybe six feet and then I made the putt. I used a hybrid from around 190 metres to the pin, maybe 210 yards, a lot of downwind.”
Taylor, who played well in the first stage, was solid with six birdies over the Amelkis course.
Meanwhile King was delighted with her best ever round of 65. “It was very exciting. I hit off the back nine and had four birdies on the back nine. I wasn’t trying to think about my score and it was a bit up and down on the second nine. I chucked a few bogeys in there but I’m absolutely stoked with that,” said the 26-year-old from Adelaide. “Last week I was hitting the ball really well I just wasn’t holing the putts. I guess I was holing a few putts today but then hit some really close as well.”
The 16-year-old Chinese professional Xiyu Lin and Australian Nikki Campbell were lying in a share of seventh and Lin said: “I totally prepared for today. I separated the holes and every hole I kept my mind going up, trying for birdie, so I feel better than yesterday because I had one double yesterday and after that double I was very angry so I missed two birdies and today was much better. I’m feeling very positive. I hope to keep my position because my game is quite good now. I just need to calm down and keep the positive mind and I think I’m going to be fine.”
A group of six players shared ninth at six under: Isabella Ramsay, Sharmila Nicollet, Ariya Jutanugarn, Malene Jorgensen, Paula Hurtado, and Jia Yun Li.
Meanwhile Cheyenne Woods and Charley Hull were in a four-way tie for 15th on five under. Woods said: “My round today was really solid. I played solid throughout the whole 18 and I had a great back nine, with three birdies in a row and I ended minus four. I am just happy with the way my game is right now, so I hope to continue like this the next three days. My driver was a little off, but I was able to keep it in play. I had five birdies in total, a few of them were close but I had two pretty long putts. Regarding the pars fives I reached hole four in two and then I birdied it, so all in all a good day.”