England’s Holly Aitchison put herself in position for a maiden win on the Ladies European Tour after she established a two stroke lead going into the final round of the Deloitte Ladies Open in Holland.
While several players struggled in the tough, windy conditions, the 24-year-old from Bedford mixed three birdies with two bogeys for a second round of 71 at Golfclub Broekpolder in Rotterdam on Saturday.
Starting out on the more difficult back nine, she navigated the three toughest holes from 10 through 12 in level par before adding birdies at the 14th and 16th.
She bogeyed the first after finding the trees and having to hit out sideways, but recovered with a birdie at the second, striking an eight-iron to eight feet and rolling in the putt.
She hit her second shot just short of the green at the eighth and raced the first putt past, resulting in a bogey, but said: “I’m hitting it well and putting well so I’m pretty happy.”
Keen to play down the significance of her position, she said: “I’ll just go out there and do much the same as what I’ve done the past two days.
“I made a few more mistakes today but I was patient. I knew I was going to make mistakes and I knew that I was going to make bogeys. I put my head down and kept going.”
Aitchison, at six under par, enjoyed a career-best tie for 10th at the Hero Honda Women’s Indian Open last season but it will be her first time in serious contention.
While she will be targeting her first victory in her third year as a professional, her closest challenger, Kiwi Lynnette Brooky, will be drawing on 16 years’ of Tour experience as she takes aim at her fifth Ladies European Tour title and her first since the 2006 Open de Espana.
The 43-year-old from Wellington has been struggling with an ankle injury this week after she fell down a flight of stairs on Thursday and almost pulled out of the tournament, but she added a 69 to her opening 71 to sit alone in second.
Brooky explained: “On Thursday night, I couldn’t walk. I was limping and I couldn’t walk on it because it was just so sore.
“I came to the physio and the doctor and they grabbed my ankle and twisted it and said, ‘You’ll play.’ I was really worried.”
After going through years of swing changes, she said: “This year I understand everything and I think I can play strongly. I haven’t held back on my game at all.”
Frenchwoman Anne-Lise Caudal also shot 69 and is two strokes further behind in third place. She said: “Today my putting and chipping was pretty good on my front nine, because I only hit five greens. I played much better on my back nine and hit eight greens, so, it was much better. I was patient and kept going. I tried to concentrate because it wasn’t easy with the wind.”
She is gunning for a second Tour victory after winning the 2008 Portugal Ladies Open and added: “I’m confident and I hope I’m going to catch up. I have a chance to win.”
The current European No.1 Christel Boeljon from the Netherlands (70) and England’s Melissa Reid (72) share fourth spot a shot back on one under par.
Boeljon, who claimed her maiden title at the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open a month ago, drew a sizeable and vocal crowd.
She said: “I’m very pleased. It was playing pretty tough again with the wind. I played solid and I’m pleased with my score.
“I did the same yesterday. I just had one bad hole yesterday that put my score up but overall it’s pretty good. I hope I can have one more good round and see where I end up. A win would be amazing.”
With 18 holes to play, Swede Caroline Hedwall held a chance of claiming a third trophy in seven days, following victories at last week’s Allianz Ladies Slovak Open and PowerPlay Golf Ignition tournament.
She finished in a share of sixth place on level par with Italy’s Diana Luna, England’s Danielle Montgomery and Tara Davies from Wales.
The third and final round of the tournament will begin at 7.37am on Sunday, with the leading pair of Aitchison and Brooky going out at midday.