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ROOKIES LEAD FRENCH OPEN



Two Tour rookies, Wales' Becky Morgan and
France's Karine Icher share the halfway lead at five under par in the 163,000 Ladies French Open at Arras GC in Northern France.

Holland's Judith Van Hagen and French number two player Marine Monnet are one shot back heading into the weekend and Italy's Giulia Sergas and Norwegian Suzanne Pettersen are on three under par.

Morgan, who returned to her home Tour after a successful start to her career
on the LPGA, carded a flawless five under par 67 in benign conditions to move into contention for her first professional win and the 24,450 first prize.

The 27-year-old from Abergeveny, who currently lies 4th on the LPGA rookie
of the year list, started on the back nine and drained her first birdie of the day at the 358-yard par four 15th. And with a sliding right to left putt from 15 feet at the 17th, the former Curtis Cup player turned in 34.

With another from 12 feet at the tricky second hole, followed by a simple chip and putt birdie at the 451-yard par five fifth, she tied for the lead with Van Hagen. And topping off her flawless performance, the Monmouth player spun a sand wedge into eight feet for her final sub par figure for the outright lead.

"I enjoyed that out there today," said Morgan, who has her father Gwynne on
bag duties this week. "He was rubbish," she jested.

Icher, who makes her first appearance as a professional on home ground, began the day in shaky fashion with a bogey at the 398-yard 12th. But the 22-year-old, from Châteauroux responded brilliantly with birdies at the 13th and 14th.

Despite a bogey at the 17th to turn in level par, the winner of last years Tour qualifying school rattled off a hat trick of birdies from the fourth hole to tie Morgan at the top and add a 69 to Thursday's 70.

""I am really happy with that today - I had a few people watching from my home club at Val de l'indre - so that was nice to play well in front of them," said Icher, who enters professional golf on the back of an outstanding amateur career.

Winning the World Amateur Championship last year at the Sporting Club Berlin
gave her the confidence to play professionally and after returning from a tough week at the US Women's Open, Icher is aiming for the top, starting with a win this week.

"I would like to try for qualifying school on the LPGA and I am hoping for an invitation for the Evian Masters next week," she added.

"If I win here, I have every chance - people here want another French girl to play there and I hope I can do it for them."

Compatriot Monnet, who also started on the back nine, surged up the leaderboard with a five under par 67, thanks to five birdies and a timely eagle three at the par five fourth hole.

"I hit a great five wood from 190 metres and sank a huge putt," beamed the
22-year-old from Paris.

Her round was only spoiled by an unlucky drive at the ninth where she found
the water from the tee, resulting in a double bogey. But the 1999 British and French Amateur champion and former Vagliano Trophy winner was upbeat
about her chances at the weekend.

"It's great playing in front of your own crowd, there are a lot of people out here following me and with Patricia (Meunier Lebouc) in front, it's great," added Monnet. "I am in next week at Evian and this is great preparation."

Van Hagen carded her equal best round of her career with a three under 69 to
add to her first round 71. The 29-year-old from Eindhoven, yet another playing the course the wrong way round, eagled the 470-yard 13th, following that with a birdie at the short par three to turn in three under.

With a temporary glitch, making bogey at the par three third hole, the Dutch
girl, whose best finish on Tour is a tie for 10th at last years Chrysler Open in Sweden, rattled off two further birdies at the fourth and sixth holes to move to four under.

A bogey at the 18th spoiled her day, but she is on course to record her best
finish on Tour since she joined in 1996.

Sergas experienced an up and down day with and outward half of 38, two over
par. But the La Perla sponsored player jumped into contention with a hole in
one at the 123-yard 14th, draining a birdie at the next for good measure.

Sadly, the 20,000 Peugeot 206 convertible on offer for an ace at the tenth
hole did not apply on the 14th and the Italian thought exactly that when she
found her ball in the hole!

""Why is it that it is always the bad things you think about when you do that?" laughed the 21-year-old from Trieste.

"This is the second one I have had - I made one in the World Cup in Chile
and I didn't get a car for that either - but it looked good all the way - it was perfect."

"At the beginning of the day, my putting was really awful, but after that and with the birdie after, everything was OK again," she joked after carding a mixed bag level par 72.

Pettersen quietly moved into contention with a two under par 70 with two late birdies on the 13th and 15th. The cheerful 20-year-old from Oslo scored one better than yesterday and is looking for her maiden win on Tour.

They are one shot clear of six players on two under, including overnight leader Swede Linda Ericsson, who struggled to a two over par 74 in the best of conditions.

Defending champion Patricia Meunier Lebouc scraped in for the weekend, making the cut "right on the bubble" at 5 over par alongside French Amateur
Virginie Lagoutte.


 

 
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