Sweden’s Julia Engström moved a step closer to securing a maiden Ladies European Tour title after taking a six-stroke lead at halfway in the Magical Kenya Ladies Open presented by Safaricom’s M-Pesa.
The 18-year-old from Halmstad posted a six-under 66 on the Baobab Course at Vipingo Ridge, 30km north of Mombasa. She heads into the weekend on 11 under, ahead of Kelsey MacDonald, Ursula Wikstrom and Esther Henseleit, who are all looking for their first wins. Michele Thomson, Sanna Nuutinen and Cheyenne Woods and all a stroke further back and seven from the lead.
Teeing off from the 10th tee in the morning, Julia wasted little time in picking up from where she left off on Thursday, making birdies on four of her first five holes.
She made a solitary bogey on the par-4 16th for a back nine total of 33 and then played the front nine in 33, courtesy of birdies at the par-3 fourth, the par-5 sixth and the par-4 ninth.
“I didn’t hole that many putts in the middle of the round, but I finished off well. I played solid and hit more greens today, so I’m happy with my round,” said Engström, who ranks 40th on the LET order of merit and fifth in driving distance, with an average drive of 272 yards.
She added: “Obviously it’s golf and anything can happen. It’s a tough course, we are playing it long and you need to play decent. I’m very happy with my first two rounds.
“It’s my first time in Kenya and I’m really enjoying it. It’s quite hot, but it’s pretty cold in Sweden right now, so I’m enjoying the last sunshine of the year.”
Scots pair MacDonald and Thomson also played in the morning and shot a pair of 68s, in the first group out from the 10th tee.
MacDonald said afterwards: “I hit it great off the tee, gave myself a lot of chances and my putting was really solid today. It was great to get out in the first group when it was a little less humid. I’m just really happy with my performance today.”
Thomson added: “Kelsey’s front nine was phenomenal and I was finding it hard to keep up with her. I decided to turn it on over our back nine and I had nine putts for nine holes, so that obviously helped my scorecard.”
Wikstrom also had a 68, while Henseleit carded a 70 to stay in contention for a win and a chance at the order of merit title.
However, order of merit leader Marianne Skarpnord, who was three over after the first round, fought back with a solid 70 to move into a share of 17th.
70 players made the cut, at seven over par, including four African players: Lejan Lewthwaite (T17th), Stacy Lee Bregman (T23rd), Maha Haddioui and Georgia Oboh (both T63rd).
Watch live streaming from the tournament here on the LET website, from 2.30-5.30pm local time this weekend.