France’s Céline Boutier kept her composure throughout heavy tropical downpours to post a five-under-par 67 on day three of the Australian Ladies Classic Bonville.
At 11-under-par, the 24-year-old from Montrouge will take a five-stroke lead into the final round ahead of the halfway leader Holly Clyburn from England, with a further four players a stroke back.
Boutier, who claimed her first Ladies European Tour title at the Sanya Ladies Open in China in November, teed off in light drizzle and promptly birdied the first hole at Bonville Golf Resort, which Clyburn bogeyed to fall into a share of the lead.
As the other players struggled in the difficult conditions, Boutier remained unfazed and birdied the fourth, seventh and ninth holes, to make the turn in 31 with a two-stroke cushion.
Although she bogeyed the par-3 11th to drop into a share of the lead with Clyburn, the Englishwoman played the next four holes in four-over-par as Boutier birdied the 14th to grab a four-stroke advantage. Both players closed their rounds with birdies on the long 18th as the sun peeked through the tall gum trees on Australia’s most beautiful mainland golf course.
Afterwards, Boutier credited her caddie, Shane Codd from Ireland, saying: “My caddie helped me a lot to stay dry and that was very important, because when everything is wet, it isn’t too easy. I tried to stay in the present, take one shot at a time and I made some good par saves when it was pouring down, so I was playing solidly all day. I’m super happy with the way I handled the course today.”
Clyburn, who began the day with a two-stroke lead, was disappointed with her third round 74, which included a double bogey at 15, but remains within touching distance of a second LET title.
The 27-year-old from Cleethorpes said: “It was a long day. Céline played fantastic out there. I didn’t expect her to go out and shoot 67 in those conditions. It was her day. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced rain like that and then, all of a sudden, been so hot at the same time. I thought the course did well considering how much rain was getting thrown down.”
Katie Burnett of the United States (68), Daniela Holmqvist of Sweden (70), Valdis Thora Jonsdottir of Iceland (72) and Olivia Cowan from Germany (73) all ended on five-under, a stroke ahead of the leading Australian, Hannah Green.
Burnett also had an experienced caddie, who helped her to stay patient. “I have a great caddie, a legend, Sophie Gustafson. It’s great to have somebody with that much experience out there who can calm you down and make sure everything is set and ready to go,” said the 28-year-old from Georgia, adding that she relishes tough conditions.
Holmqvist is also known as a tough competitor. Five years, ago, she used a golf tee to remove the venom from a black widow spider bite from her ankle midway through a qualifier for the Women’s Australian Open at Royal Canberra, which earned her the nickname ‘Spider-woman.’ Despite that, she still loves Australia and said it would be a dream to become the winner of the inaugural Australian Ladies Classic Bonville.
The favourite coming into the tournament, Green felt that she hadn’t played her best, with five birdies and as many bogeys on her card. She said: “I thought it was tough out there. I glimpsed at a leader board on 16 and thought, wow, what course is Celine playing? A 72 wasn’t too bad, but I definitely left a lot out there.”
Another Australian, Rebecca Artis, shares eighth place with Denmark’s Nanna Madsen and England’s Florentyna Parker is in 10th position. Olafia Kristinsdottir fired a 67, to share the equal best score of the day and lies in a tie for 20th place.