Espirito Santo Trophy

France lead in the Women's World Amateur team Championship but GB&I are poised to make a run for the World title

Espirito Santo Trophy


BAD SAAROW, GERMANY -- Maitena Alsuguren tied an individual record by shooting a 5-under-par 67 Friday at the Nick Faldo Course at Sporting Club Berlin, powering overnight leader France to a six-stroke lead over Korea and Great Britain and Ireland in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship. France, five times a runner-up in the biennial event's first 18 playings, now stands one round from claiming the Espirito Santo Trophy, emblematic of global excellence in women's amateur golf.

Alsuguren never made a bogey over the 6,155-yard (5,626-yard) layout on another day of stiff winds that continued to firm putting surfaces that began the week soft and slow. Her 67 tied the mark for the low third round by an individual, equaling the performance of Wendy Ward of the United States of America in 1994 in Paris, France. That year the USA went on to win by four strokes.

"It was a very good day for me," said Alsuguren, who needed only 30 putts. "There was no secret. I just played my best on each stroke."

France, which won the Womens' European Amateur Team Championship last year on its own soil, also counted a 75 by Virginie Auffret, who dropped strokes at the last two holes. The third player, Karine Icher, also carded a 75 that did not contribute to the team's daily score of 2-under 142.

"Virginie and Karine may not have come out in the scores, but it was in the heart," said Gwladys Nocera, a four-year assistant coach at the New Mexico State University who at age 25 is the youngest captain among the 40 nations in Bad Saarow. "Tomorrow it will be the same attitude as today, yesterday and in the first round. We don't play for other people. We will play for ourselves."

France stood at 1-over 433 and held a cushion over Korea, the winner four years ago, and Great Britain and Ireland, a perennial contender that has never claimed the trophy. Sweden, Japan and Denmark were next at 11-over 443, followed by a three-way tie for seventh at 12-over 444 between Netherlands, Italy and Brazil.

For the second consecutive day the host squad was unable to solve the demanding layout and totaled 450, placing it in solo 12th and leaving it little chance of improving on its tie for second in 1998 in Santiago, Chile. And the USA, which has won the crown 13 times, improved slightly to a tie for 19th place at 459 with New Zealand. The USA has never placed worse than a tie for fifth.
Alsuguren's 54-hole score of 3-under 213 did not make her the low individual. That honor remained the property of Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who added a 71 to post a 4-under 212. They were the only two players in a field of 120 still under par for the week. The difference for Norway, however, was in the second score in a format where the highest score does not count toward the team total. Norway has had to count 78-78-79 and is 10th.

Korea stumbled slightly when Hyun-Joo Shin opened double bogey-bogey-bogey, and Joo-Mi Kim erased the benefit of birdies at the second and third holes with three bogeys by the time she left the 13th green. But as the wind began to die the squad found its rhythm and stayed equal with GBI. By contrast, GBI enjoyed a steady 71 by Rebecca Hudson and 73 by Suzanne O'Brien to leapfrog from a tie for seventh.

"They set out today to shoot level par or better, and I'm very happy they were able to shoot par," said GBI captain Mary McKenna, taking part in her eighth Espirito Santo competition as either a player or captain. "They have worked hard on their putting and it has paid off."

The windy conditions played to GBI's advantage, Hudson said, adding that if the winds were to continue for another day it could assist in chasing down France. "Sometimes it can be easier to come from behind instead of minding your lead," McKenna said.

The championship, which made its debut in 1964 in France, is conducted by the World Amateur Golf Council, itself founded in 1958 to encourage the international development of the game and to employ golf as a vehicle to foster friendship and sportsmanship. Recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the official international federation for golf, the WAGC comprises the national governing bodies of golf in more than 90 countries.

The play for the Espirito Santo Trophy begins a fortnight during which the world's best amateur golfers will gather at this 36-hole complex outside Berlin. The men's championship, for the Eisenhower Trophy, begins next Thursday over both the Faldo and Arnold Palmer Courses. Great Britain and Ireland are the defending champions. That field is also expected to break records, surpassing the 52 countries from two years ago in Chile.

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