Diana Luna fired a second-round six -under-par 64 to take a two stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on Friday.
The 29-year-old Italian moved to the top of the leader board at nine-under-par on a second day of sunshine at Chantaco Golf Club in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, south-west France.
The five-time Ladies European Tour champion has been close to a victory this season with six top ten finishes, including two second places and was feeling confident in her game.
She said: “I think I’ve been playing very good, the short clubs to the pin, so I had many, many birdie chances. I’ve been playing well with my 8, 9-irons, wedges, so that was the strongest part. I think was pretty windy all the way around but because we are sheltered by the trees, you don’t really feel it.”
The first round leader Stacey Keating of Australia followed her opening 62 with a one-over 71 to sit alone in second place.
She was on a roll on Thursday after picking up her first professional victory in Tenerife a fortnight ago but admitted: “It was never going to be the same day as yesterday, was it. That’s golf, it’s disappointing to not finish under par today but that’s how it goes.
“I just didn’t hit as many greens so I didn’t have as many birdie opportunities. You can’t be making birdies from off the green, can you, so that was about it really.
“I’m contending so that’s nice. There’s a long way to go and I’m looking forward to it. I’m happy with the position that I’m in.”
Carlota Ciganda of Spain, Germany’s Anja Monke and local player Anne-Lise Caudal from Saint-Jean-de-Luz share third place at five under.
Monke made the biggest jump up the leader board with a superb 63 while Caudal was also impressive with six birdies in a 65.
Monke, who is four months pregnant with her first child, had nine birdies and two bogeys.
“I haven’t really looked at the score board. My target was to play well and make it into the weekend and I think I achieved that. We’ll see for tomorrow on how it goes,” Monke said.
Local player Caudal received a large round of applause for each of the six birdies she made, playing in unseasonable temperatures of around 28C.
“It was nice nice to finish strongly. On this golf course you have to play well at the beginning and in the middle its quite difficult, so you have to accept par and if you make birdie it’s a bonus.You have to finish strong as well because you have a lot of birdie holes and that’s what I did today so I’m happy,” Caudal said.
Ciganda, from nearby Pamplona, was another player with local support from family and friends in the gallery.
“My family is here and my parents, three of my uncles were here, some friends also. It’s really important for me because I’m very close to my family and it’s nice to play here, close to home,” said Ciganda, who speaks Spanish and Basque.
“I’m happy because I think shooting three under, it’s a good score. I started playing really well with four birdies in the first seven holes so I was playing very solid and making putts and very happy with my game.
“The last nine holes I didn’t play that good, but I still made one birdie on the 16th hole, which was very good, and then two bogeys, so in the end, three under.
“Yesterday I played well on the back nine and today I just started really well on the front nine. I think I played pretty similar, hitting good shots and making good putts and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Frenchwoman Valentine Derrey, who grew up playing at the club every summer, shares sixth place on four under with Hannah Jun of the United States and Danielle Montgomery.
Retired former world number one Lorena Ochoa and England’s all-time great Laura Davies, celebrating her 49th birthday, both comfortably made the cut and ended the day in a share of 25th position, 10 shots off the lead on one-over-par. Ochoa shot a two-over 72 while Davies had a one-under 69.
Ochoa said: “I didn’t play my best, especially on the greens. I struggled with some of the holes out there. I made two three-putts so it’s not a great feeling but at the same time, here I am. I’m okay. It’s good to be able to make the cut and hopefully on the weekend it will be better.
“I thought I would make the cut. I was being positive and I thought that my game was in good shape to make the cut. I think what is important right now is to go really low on the weekend.
“I think I’m behind, way back from the leaders, but I’m going to take one day at a time. Tomorrow is going to be important, to post a low round, hopefully get closer, hopefully get around the top ten and then we’ll see on Sunday.”
The cut fell at four over par, with former champion Karen Lunn of Australia and Scotland’s Carly Booth, currently lying in fourth place on the LET’s ISPS Handa order of merit, missing out on playing the weekend.
José María Olazábal to be at Chantaco on Sunday
José María Olazábal, Europe’s victorious 2012 Ryder Cup captain, will be on site at Chantaco on Sunday the follow the last group and present the trophy to the winner.
The celebrated champion, who formed a successful Ryder Cup partnership with fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, lives just 15 kilometres from Chantaco at Golf de Fontarrabie and was the first Basque player to win The Masters in 1994 and then again in 1999.
He will be particularly interested in following the performances of the leading Spanish players: Carlota Ciganda, also from the Basque Country, ninth placed Azahara Muñoz and his friend Tania Elosegui, from San Sebastian, currently in a share of 18th place on one under par.
The winner of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France will earn a first prize cheque for 37,500 euros. Entry to the Lacoste Ladies Open de France is free.