Ireland’s Hazel Kavanagh

(Golfclub Föhrenwald, Wiener Neustadt, Austria – Saturday 12th September 2009) — Ireland’s Hazel Kavanagh, Sweden’s Linda Wessberg and Marjet van der Graaff from the Netherlands share a one stroke lead heading into the final round of the UNIQA Ladies Golf Open presented by Raiffeisen in Austria.

The trio lead on eight-under-par after three rounds at Golfclub Föhrenwald in Wiener Neustadt, ahead of Germany’s Bettina Hauert and Frenchwoman Jade Schaeffer.

Kavanagh fired a career low round of five-under 67 to lead a Ladies European Tour event for the first time in eight seasons as a professional. She carded five birdies, with three on the front and two on the back nine, sinking birdie putts from 25 and 35 feet at the 12th and 13th holes respectively.

“I hit 17 greens and I putted great,” said the 37-year-old Dubliner.

Kavanagh has not yet recorded a top ten finish as a professional, but is experiencing a breakthrough season thanks to a relaxed mental approach.

She has recorded two top 20s including a career best tie for 13th at the Finnair Masters this year. At 53rd on the tour’s official Henderson Money List, she is the top ranked Irish player.

She has a new approach to golf: “Just having no emotion; not caring where the ball goes. I used to care and try so hard to put it into position but now I just hit it and then find it and hit it,” she said. “I always knew I had it in me but mentally I was very weak and I’m much stronger this year.”

Marjet van der Graaff

Now she has the opportunity to become the Ladies European Tour’s first Irish winner.

“One of my goals was to be the first Irish winner and I know there are going to be loads of players coming through so I want to do it as soon as possible!” she said.

Co-leader Wessberg has won twice, in Wales in 2006 and France in 2007. She recorded an eagle, a birdie and a bogey in her third round and was delighted to have found the feeling with her putter.

“I’m very pleased. I’ve been struggling big time this year and finally I feel like my putting is coming together again, which has always been a good part of my game. I haven’t been putting well at all. It’s nice to finally roll in some putts. I’m trying to hit the fairways but it’s pretty tricky. I’m happy with where I am right now,” said the 28-year-old from Gothenburg. “I guess that now I can see the ball go in and before I didn’t.”

Second year tour pro van der Graaff, 27, from Roosendaal en Nispen, is yet to win a pro event as an individual. She maintained her overnight share of the lead with a 72 that included four early bogeys, an eagle and two birdies.

Linda Wessberg

She said: “I hit it well this morning but I three putted three holes on the first nine which isn’t good. I’m going to the putting green now to practise my putting because that was horrible. The rest of the game was alright so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

England’s Laura Davies, seeking a third-successive victory in Austria, slipped back into a share of sixth at six-under after a 74. Her three birdies were countered by a double-bogey at the par-four fifth, where she hit her tee shot right into trees, followed by a triple bogey seven at the 13th, when her second shot went into the water hazard.

She said: “I hit two bad shots and had a double and a triple. You can’t really recover from that. The double was, I hit a really poor tee shot and went for a shot that didn’t come off. I made a double there but the triple on 13; I hit a really good tee shot and had some mud on the ball. I hit a nine iron but the mud skewed it off to the right and it went in the water. I tried to get it out a couple of times and a triple.

“I’m still in with a chance. That takes a bit of pressure off actually. If I was leading and trying to get three on the trot it’s a bit more pressure. Now I’m playing catch up and it’s all to play for.”

Final round play begins at 7.30am on Sunday, with the leaders off at 11.30am.