(Salamanca May 31 2003) Virginie Auffret from France controlled her nerves during Saturday at the €250,000 Open de España Feminino in Salamanca and heads into the fourth and final round on the verge of her maiden European Tour victory.

Arruti – Spanish rose

“I was so nervous at the start,” said Auffret. “I wasn’t really thinking properly, I was coming in and out of the game for a few holes.”

Bogeys at the sixth and eighth knocked her out of her stride until the 12th when she birdied again to go back to five under par.

Dibnah and Dassu chipped away, but the young Frenchwoman, who would almost double her career earnings if she wins the €37,500 first prize, broke away at the end with birdies at the 16th from 15 feet and a simple two putt birdie at the par five 18th.

“It was the first time I have ever been leading a Tournament and I didn’t know how to handle it earlier on,” added Auffret.

“But now I’m in, I’m very happy with that. Tomorrow, I think I will be nervous, just like anyone else but I am going to try and stay in the present.”

Ten players are within six shots of the lead, among them Germany’s Elisabeth Esterl, who if she finished in the top three this week, is sure to be a part of Catrin Nilsmark’s Team Europe in September.

Esterl, winner of the Ladies Tenerife Open a month ago carded an up and down 72 and blamed poor short game play for not advancing on moving day.