Thursday, April 22, 2010

Austrians - one set of clubs between two - share lead

with a 66 in European Nations Cup at Alicante

She had no golf clubs, had to borrow clothes and had little sleep, but after an amazing dash from America, Austria’s Stefanie Michl made it to Spain on Wednesday night, to join Nicole Gergely at the Comunitat Valenciana Nations Cup in Dénia.
After arriving at Madrid airport late on Wednesday evening without her golf clubs and luggage, Michl met Gergely at La Sella Resort at around 12.30am and the pair agreed to share clubs, as is allowed in team competition as long as there are no more than 14 in the bag.
Since both players use similar Titleist AP2 clubs and a Scotty Cameron putter, it couldn’t have worked out better.
The pair gelled phenomenally well and fired a superb six-under-par 66 in the four-ball better-ball format to share the lead with the Spanish duo of Tania Elosegui and Emma Cabrera Bello in the 18-nation event.
They finished one shot ahead of three teams at five-under-par. In a share of third were the French duo of Gwladys Nocera and Jade Schaeffer, Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon representing the United States and Sweden, represented by Anna Nordqvist and Sophie Gustafson.
The Icelandic volcano caused travel chaos leading up to the tournament and Michl was the last player to arrive. Originally booked on a flight from Orlando, she eventually flew from Miami to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Madrid, arriving jet lagged less than nine hours before her tee time.
With no suitcase, she borrowed a skirt and a polo shirt from Russian Maria Verchenova and rain wear from a marshal in the morning drizzle.
The Austrians obviously felt they had something to prove and Gergely struck with the first of the team’s five birdies at the par-five second hole. They bogeyed the par-four seventh, making the turn in level par 36, but Gergely picked up two more birdies at the 11th and 12th holes, followed by another at the 16th, where she rolled in a 10-metre putt.
Michl finished with a birdie on 17 followed by an eagle at the par-five 18th, when she holed out from 34 metres.
Michl said: “I felt I was hitting her irons really well. With the woods and the driver I struggled a bit but I felt comfortable because I knew she would play well and help me out. I did as much as I could.
“You don’t hole a 34 metre pitch every day. It came off the club nicely and I saw it was nice but it disappeared.
“I felt a bit tired this morning but I knew it was time to wake up and play the tournament and play well. I was a little bit let down when I saw that my clubs had not turned up but we found out that I could use Nicole’s and they are pretty similar. She is a Titleist player as well so that was good and I felt good.”
Gergely, who last year became the first Austrian to win a Ladies' European Tour title with her maiden victory at the Vediorbis/Randstad Open de France Dames, added: “We played okay. We had a few chances on the front nine. When I saw her third shot for eagle, I thought: that’s great!”
They were later caught by Spain, who recorded seven birdies and one bogey. Tania Elosegui birdied the third, fifth, sixth, ninth, 12th and 18th holes. Emma Cabrera Bello birdied the 17th and joked: “We went through a strategy: I make the pars and leave the birdies for Tania.”
Elosegui added: “That’s a very good start. I think we are both happy with today. We fight out there. I think we were struggling a little bit on the back nine but Emma holed a very important putt on 15 to save par because we dropped one shot on 14 so that par was very important.”
Defending champions Christel Boeljon and Marjet Van der Graaff of the Netherlands shot 68 and shared sixth place with Denmark and Italy.

Friday’s second round will be “Valencian Cup”, which is a variation on greensomes where players tee off then switch and play their partner’s ball for the next shot (on par 4s) and for the next 2 shots (on par 5s) before selecting the best ball and completing the hole in alternate shot (foursome) format. On par 3s the best tee shot is selected before completing the hole with alternate shots.
Four-ball, better-ball will be played on Saturday followed by a final round of Valencian Cup on Sunday.