(Pelican Waters, Queensland – 28 January 2006) – The Perth based Queenslander Rebecca Stevenson returned to her home state and again showed her liking for the conditions in which she developed her game by taking a one shot lead into the final round of the 2006 ALPG Players Championship at Club Pelican on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Stevenson’s second round of 69 has her at four under par for the tournament just one ahead of the Australian US LPGA Tour pairing of Katherine Hull and Lindsey Wright, with a further shot back to the highly credentialed Swedish golfer, Maria Hjorth.
As the early starters arrived to commence their second rounds of the 54-hole event, they were met by light drizzle, overcast skies and perhaps slightly stronger breezes than those who had played early on day one had experienced. It would seem, therefore, that perhaps those with early tee times today may have experienced the wrong side of the draw over the first two days. One player amongst that group however would look to put aside any lack of fortune in that respect.
Lindsey Wright, who played in the breezy afternoon conditions on day one, put together a round of 68 to take the early tournament lead on day two, as the first round leader, Nicole Lowien, headed out to defend the one shot lead she had created on day one.
Wright is from Albury in Victoria but played collegiate golf at Pepperdine University in the California prior to turning professional in June of 2003. She was an outstanding amateur golfer having been a member of the 2002 Espirito Trophy winning Australian team, and, finished runner up in the individual there. She gained only partial status on the US LPGA Tour for 2004 and made the decision to play the Futures Tour that year in order that she would gain continuity of events, confidence and hopefully a 2005 US LPGA Tour card via that tour. She did exactly that and now with a solid US LPGA Tour rookie season behind her in 2005, she is slowly but surely developing into one of Australia’s most promising female golfers. Her best finish in 2005 was in Sacramento with a 5th placing, but she finished the season in 65th place on the LPGA Tour’s Order or Merit.
Today she was out of the blocks early despite intermittent showers early in her round. “I was taking the rain jacket off then putting it back on for a while there,” she said not long after finishing her round. “I played a lot better today from tee to green although yesterday I was pleased with the way I saved a lot of shots as I missed a few greens. I have had a bit on my mind also this week as my dad who came up to watch me this week and next is in hospital with a stomach complaint. He is annoyed that he can’t get out to watch me play.”
As she walked from the course, Wright had a share of the lead with Rebecca Stevenson who moved from her overnight one under score to three under with two early birdies.
Stevenson who played on the Ladies European Tour in 2005 seems to play her best golf in Queensland although that is hardly surprising given that she has spent much of her life here. The 1999 Australian Amateur Champion, who now lives in Perth, finished runner up to Laura Davies at the 2003 ANZ Ladies Masters not long after securing her Ladies European Tour card. It was a finish that came at just the right time giving her the funding to tackle a season on the Ladies European Tour and set her up for Rookie of the Year honours that year.
Stevenson has now come off her third season in Europe in 2005 where she finished 64th on the LET Order of Merit. She played a few of the pro-ams late last year after spending a couple of weeks caddying for a friend at the LET Tour School but has been working on her game with her coach Andrew Mowatt at Royal Fremantle near Perth
“I always like playing in Queensland and am so used to the greens and although I live in Perth it is always nice to come back to play here. Stevenson birdied the 10th from 6 feet (her first) then the 12th from 20 feet, the 18th from 6 feet, the 5th and at the 8th after a delightful pitch to five feet. “I bogeyed the 6th hole after being a little long with my tee shot at the par three and bogeyed the last after hitting my tee shot in the bunker and then bladed my second into the right hand rough.” She got relief from a tire track there but her resultant bogey saw her lose one of the two shot lead she had built. She finished with 69 to be at four under and one ahead.
Local golfer and defending champion Katherine Hull was playing in the group behind the leader and her five under round of 67 is the best of the week and has her at three under and just one back.
The only bogey Hull recorded was at the 18th (her 9th) when she pulled her tee shot a little and ran through the fairway. “I had an ugly lie there and turned it over and found the bunker and was not able to get up and down. I had birdies at the 10th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 17th and at the 3rd. I hit 15 greens and putted really well although most of my birdie putts were inside 15 feet. I felt really good over the putter today.”
“I’m really looking forward to playing in the final group tomorrow and good memories from last year will help that’s for sure,” added Hull. “You have to pick and choose your holes to attack and defend out here. There is a real danger of short siding yourself and if you do then you can make double bogey.” Hull also paid tribute to her caddy Mark Wuersching, the 2000 Australian Amateur Champion. Wuersching is on the bag as caddy this week and the pair has had previous success, ironically enough over Stevenson at the 2000 Queensland Amateur. “Mark has done a great job in helping remain positive out there,” added Hull.
In fourth place, one shot behind Hull and Wright and just two from the lead is the Swedish golfer and two time US LPGA/ LET tournament winner Maria Hjorth. She works with the same coach as Hull, Ian Triggs, who also works with Karrie Webb and Rachel Hetherington. Triggs will have divided loyalties tomorrow but given his growing stable of high quality players that is not an unusual situation. In 2005 Hjorth won the English Open for the second consecutive year and made the Solheim Cup Team. She is the most experienced player amongst those in close contention and remains a serious threat to those ahead.
At one under is overnight leader Nicole Lowien who did well to stay in touch with a one over 73 and is not out of it.
At even par are Spain’s Ana Larraneta, Italy’s Sophie Sandolo and South Australian Anne Marie Knight; while Sara Beautell is at one over and Laura Davies perhaps not yet completely out of it is at two over.
Knight was helped in her cause by her holed in one at the par three 6th hole. With sponsorship of that particular hole by the local Harley Davidson agent there was suggestion that Knight might find herself the proud owner of a Harley Davidson but while that was not the case, she earned $500 for her efforts.
The final group in tomorrow’s final round, Stevenson, Hull and Wright tee of at 10.00am. The cut was made at 12 over par with 68 of the field of 114 making it through to day three.