AFTER taking a year out due to a shoulder injury, Switzerland’s Morgane Metraux was the leader at Ladies European Tour Qualifying School, at La Manga, in Spain.
Morgane, who was the Symetra Tour Rookie of the Year in 2018, made the most of the improved conditions after Storm Gloria battered Spain, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake, including taking out 150 trees at La Manga.
Metraux, who is the girlfriend of Hampshire’s Amateur Champion Harry Ellis after they met at Florida State University, carded an opening round of 68 on the North Course and take the overnight clubhouse lead on three-under par.
The North and South Courses were left in somewhat benign conditions in comparison to what had been experienced over the previous couple of days after 80mph winds swept across the Mediterranea country.
The club’s greenkeepers worked overtime to prepare the course after scores of trees were ripped out across the resort’s golf courses during the storm.
They peformed an incredible job and play got underway in excellent conditions for the first round of final stage qualifying for the 2020 LET season.
After signing for the round of the day, Metraux, whose older sister Kim is also in the field, said: “I have had a full year off until now, because of my injury.
“Firstly, to be able to play is really amazing and to play this well is a really, really good feeling for me.
“I was lucky that I played in the Pre-Qualifier, as I knew the courses so I didn’t have to practice in the storm over the last few days when it’s been raining a lot.
“The courses have softened up since last week but definitely drain very well compared to the amount of rain that we have had.
“I holed a few long putts which was a big bonus. My putting was really good and my iron play was solid,” added Metraux, who finished second in the Espirito Santo Trophy at the 2016 World Amateur Team Championship, in Mexico, playing with her sister.
“La Manga Club is great. I wasn’t actually planning on playing due to my injury and coming here I wasn’t expecting too much in terms of my golf,” said Metraux.
“The resort is really good and if you compare it with the conditions we have had, the place is tremendous.”
Alison Muirhead, who won last week’s Pre-Qualifier last week, continued her excellent form carding an opening round two-under 69 on the North Course.
The 21-year-old from Scotland said: “I am pretty pleased with my start.
“I played really solid and hit a lot of fairways and greens. I feel there are plenty of birdie opportunities out there but if the wind is like this, it is definitely going to make it tough.
“I’m feeling excited about the next four days,” added Muirhead.
Frida Gustafsson Spang was very happy with an opening 69 and also was grateful for the work that the greenkeepers have done.
The Swedish star said: “I’m very happy. Obviously I had a lot of nerves as I haven’t competed for a while, so I was very happy that I could keep everything very solid.
“I tried to play smart and strategic golf, especially with the wind.
“The greenkeepers have done an amazing job. I have been talking about the storm with friends as we were expecting wet shoes but my shoes are still super dry.
“The course handles the rain very well but we also have had many trees come down.
“They have cleared everything, so they must have been working so hard and we are very happy for everything that they have done to make the course super good.
“La Manga Club is great. It is so nice to have everything in one spot. We have beautiful courses, everything is easily accessible and there are great facilities.”
Sweden’s My Leander joined Frida and Alison on two-under.
She said: “It was a fun round. I had three early birdies on the front nine which helped.
“I managed to hit a lot of shots close to the pins. It’s been raining for two days but the courses are holding up really well.
“La Manga Club is so beautiful. It’s nice to see some sunshine today and it’s probably going to get even better tomorrow.”
Dlamini shot best score on South Course
SWAZILAND’S Nobuhle Dlamini shot the best round of the day on the South Course, posting a two-under par 71.
Making up a seven-way share for second position on two-under are Germany’s Leonie Harm, France’s Emilie Piquot and Spain’s Marta Martin.
There are 120 players competing at the Final Stage of Qualifying School.
After the final round, the top five players will be eligible for LET membership in category 5c.
Players in sixth to 20th position will be eligible for membership in category 8a.
Players who have made the 72-hole cut ( leading 60 and ties) and finished below 21st place, will be ranked according to score and be eligible for category 9b.
Players that fail to make the cut after 72 holes, will be eligible for LET membership in category 12a and will be ranked in final score order.
•To follow live scoring at LET Qualifying School at La Manga, click here.