21 April 2018: Austrian Christine Wolf and German rookie Laura Fuenfstueck hold a share of the halfway lead in the Lalla Meryem Cup, after a day when firm greens and a tricky breeze tested the field on the Blue Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.
Early starter Wolf grabbed the clubhouse lead with a 69 and was joined on three-under by Fuenfstueck (71).
The next best placed player on two-under is Australian Sarah Kemp (70), with the defending champion Klara Spilkova of the Czech Republic (70) and Sweden’s Lynn Karlsson (72) tied for fourth. There are only five players under par.
First-round leader Nicole Garcia of South Africa slipped back into a share of sixth on level par with Karolin Lampert, Katja Pogacar and Noemi Jimenez Martin.
Wolf and Fuenfstueck used their straight driving to plot their way around the tight and tree-lined course in cool and windy conditions.
Wolf bogeyed her first hole, the 10th, but fired three successive birdies from the 13th. She then birdied the fifth and sixth, before dropping a second shot at the ninth for a 36-hole total of three-under-par.
The 29-year-old from Innsbruck said: “Sometimes it felt a bit gusty out there. At the start we were in between clubs but after a while we got used to it. Hitting into the wind you noticed it but because you’re in the trees, sometimes you don’t feel it as much and you just see your ball move. I loved the greens. I mean, you hit them where you see it and it just rolls there. If you miss it, it’s just because you mis-read it.”
Despite a sixth-place finish in the Investec South African Women’s Open last month, she has made some swing changes coming into this week, explaining: “I was swinging way short, especially when I was getting a bit nervous, and swinging much quicker and my transition was off, so it was all a chain reaction. Now it feels better. I’ve probably gained about 10 yards. That doesn’t show today because the driving holes were into the wind.”
Having her mother, Andrea, on her bag seemed to put her in a good mood, although they have a strict rule that she only offers comment when asked.
“She usually comes to the nice places. It’s nice because we talk about everything and whatever comes into our mind,” she said, adding that they haven’t discussed the caddie percentages.
Although early days, Wolf is looking for her first victory on the Ladies European Tour, although she earned her maiden professional title at the 2012 Crete Ladies Open on the LET Access Series.
Fuenfstueck is also looking for a maiden LET title, in only her second start, but she did win the SA Women’s Masters at San Lameer in February.
The 23-year-old from Frankfurt reckoned that divine intervention may have played its part, thanks to her local caddie, Nabil Rached.
“He said his wife spoke an extra prayer for us last night, which was nice. I think we are in good hands,” she said.
Kemp, 32, from Tuncurry, is also looking for her first LET title in her 13th year on tour, although she has come closest with 24 top 10s including two runner-up finishes in Spain and New Zealand.
“I’m pleased because this course is pretty difficult. I drove it well and kept it in play, which is the most important thing about this event, so it was a good day,” she said.
“It was quite windy today and we didn’t have the wind yesterday. I grew up playing a golf course in Australia that’s really windy, New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney, which really helped. I could fly the ball a little lower and I practice that quite a bit, especially with my driver and it paid off today.”
The defending champion said that she had achieved her first objective. “I’m just so happy I made the cut this week, to be honest. I have been really nervous since last week, so I’m working on it and I’m really thankful. When I’m nervous, I usually play well and it helps me. I’m just trying to stay patient and hit fairways, greens and just two putts, which is how I won last year.”
Garcia, who is suffering from flu, struggled on her first nine but recovered her form on the back nine. She said: “I was quite tired today, so there were a few shots from the fairway when I lost concentration. The first nine I struggled with my short game and on this course, it’s not easy to hit greens, which isn’t a good combination.”
Ladies European Tour