Ana Menendez of Mexico shot a two-under-par 70 to lead for a third day in the Ladies European Thailand Championship and take a one stroke lead into the final round at Phoenix Gold Golf and Country Club in Pattaya.
At six-under-par, the 25-year-old from Mexico City remains a stroke clear of Thai amateur Atthaya Thitikul, who at 14, has a chance to become the youngest ever winner on the Ladies European Tour tomorrow.
Amy Boulden of Wales is two strokes further back in joint third place after a 67: the lowest round of the tournament with Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro of Thailand and Swedish rookie Frida Gustafsson Spang.
Menendez made a nervy start to the third round with a bogey on her first hole, but she birdied the fourth and thereafter held it together.
“I was really nervous at the beginning. I think my first shot was the worst of the day by far, but I’m happy I was able to get it back on the back nine. I don’t think I was hitting it as solid as the other days,” said the second-year LET player.
Although five competitors – Menendez, Thitikul, Boulden, Whitney Hllier and Lina Boqvist –
held a share of the lead early in the round, both Menendez and Thitikul birdied the long seventh to re-establish their dominance. They headed into the back nine tied on three-under-par, one ahead of Boulden, who then bogeyed the par-5 18th.
After Thitikul bogeyed the 10th, Menendez was briefly joined by Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro at the head of affairs, but Menendez birdied 12 to take a one stroke advantage before she and Thitikul both birdied the final two holes.
The Thai National Team member said: “I feel so happy with my score because my driver and approach shots were better than yesterday but unfortunately my putter was not. I made the birdie putt on 17 and that was very important to me.”
When asked how she would feel to break Lydia Ko’s record as the LET’s youngest winner, she replied “If I win, I will be very, very happy… so much… but tomorrow is the future so I’ll only focus on the processes and have fun.”
Boulden was six-under for her round coming to the 18th tee. She said: “I played really well and gave myself a lot of chances. The putter was really working and I holed a lot of good putts. I’m really annoyed that I finished with a bogey on the last but I made seven birdies out there. I played the front nine yesterday in four-over, so it was really pleasing to play it in three-under par today.”
Gustafsson Spang, who is paying her first visit to Asia, shot a 71 and said: “I had a great plan before the tournament and I think it’s very important to hit the fairway. I’ve been pretty strong from the tee because the rough is pretty thick.”
Mendendez also attributed her score to a solid course strategy. She said: “It’s a great course that makes you think and in the practice rounds, we were all talking about how it plays a little bit shorter than what we are used to on the LET, but you see the scores are not that low. I love that, because that means the course is asking you to strategize more than we are used to.”
Although she is handling the heat well, she considers the steamy conditions to be quite different from where she usually plays, at La Hacienda or Club de Golf Chapultepec, in Mexico City, where she says that temperatures are a relatively cool 20 degrees centigrade all year.