Swedish teenager Julia Engström continued to demonstrate her extraordinary talent as she built a seven stroke lead heading into the final round of the Magical Kenya Ladies Open presented by Safaricom’s M-Pesa.
The 18-year-old, looking for her breakthrough victory on the Ladies European Tour, carded a two under par 70 at Vipingo Ridge, 30km from Mombasa.
Engström, the 2018 Rookie of the Year, was six strokes ahead at halfway and is now seven clear of Christine Wolf, Aditi Ashok, Astrid Vayson de Pradenne and Esther Henseleit, who sit at six under.
Engström made a brilliant start with back to back birdies on the first two holes, then carded a third birdie on the par-5 sixth to move eight strokes clear of the current leading rookie, Henseleit.
That lead was cut in half, to four strokes, when Engstrom pulled her tee shot into the water on the par-3 eighth and Henseleit birdied the ninth. However, Engstrom immediately recovered with her own birdie to take a five stroke advantage through the turn, after going out in 34.
Henseleit bogeyed the 10th, handing Engstrom a six shot lead. The young Swede then rebuilt her eight stroke lead with birdies on 11 and 15, however she bogeyed the last two holes for a back nine of 36.
“I had a good start and kept on going. I made a double on eight, but bounced back directly with a birdie. I took advantage of the par 5s and just enjoyed it out there,” she said.
“I haven’t been eating that much, because I have had trouble with the food. I got a bit tired at the end, but I’m hoping that I will be better tomorrow. I will try to eat something tonight and drink a lot of water. I’m happy to go out there in the lead, but there are 18 holes to go, so I’m excited.”
The biggest lead going into a final round this season on the LET was eight strokes, recorded by Atthaya Thitikul, who went on to win by five in Thailand, where Henseleit finished second.
The 20-year-old from Germany has been a runner-up four times on the LET so far in her first season and feels that she will need a low round to catch Engström after a third round of 71. A win would also give her an incredible chance of winning the order of merit, where she lies second behind leader Marianne Skarpnord.
“I was three under after the first nine and had some more chances. I just missed three short putts on the back nine and made a good bogey on 10 after hitting it into the woods on the right. I just couldn’t get the putts in,” Henseleit said.
“It’s a bit like Thailand. I think I was eight shots behind Atthaya, so I’ll be looking for a lot of birdies tomorrow to catch her.”
Wolf’s 66 was the equal best round of the day, but she felt that a second victory following her Hero Women’s Indian Open title would be just out of reach.
Vayson de Pradenne and Ashok both shot 67s to stay in the hunt, but said that they would just be looking to enjoy the final round of the season tomorrow.
Sanna Nuutinen lies alone in sixth, while Kylie Henry, Cheyenne Woods, Ursula Wikstrom and Kelsey MacDonald are tied for seventh on two under par.
It’s set up for a scintillating finish to 2019 on the Ladies European Tour.