Ladies European Tour
May 1st, 2022
Stark four shots clear at NSW Open
Swede shoots joint best third round to extend lead
Photography: Tristan Jones/LET
The 22-year-old backed up rounds of 68 and 69 on her first two days with another in the 60s to put herself firmly in pole position with 18 holes left to play at Coolangatta & Tweed Heads Golf Club.
A birdie on the first was soon followed by another on the sixth, with the 2017 PING Junior Solheim Cup player dropping her only shot of the day on the seventh.
Five birdies in her final 10 holes ensured the two-time LET winner, who had friend Maiken Bing Paulsen on the bag, holds a strong lead heading into the final day and is looking to add another victory to her tally.
“I didn’t start off that badly, but I think I compared myself to Lydia [Hall] and Maggie [Simmermacher] a lot because they started quick out the gates,” said Stark, who is leading the 2022 Race to Costa del Sol.
“I did hit very wide shots which I haven’t done in so long and I didn’t know what the problem was or what I did wrong. That was pretty frustrating, but I’m happy I managed to save it a lot of times anyway. I finally found it at 11 and I knew how to hit, so I was so happy and excited to play the last eight holes."
Fellow Swede Johanna Gustavsson also fired a round of 66 (-6) to climb up to second place on nine-under-par on day three.
The 29-year-old rolled in nine birdies including on holes six through nine and 16 through to 18, as well as three bogeys to put herself into contention.
“It was a good day. I played solidly again, a few more putts dropped,” she said. “I made a few bogeys at 10 and 11, but you have to just get stuck in and try and get back and I did. I finished really nicely with three birdies on the last three holes."
Gustavsson has had an excellent start to the year recording two top-10 finishes and believes she is improving with each year on Tour.
She added: “I’m feeling very good about my game in general. This year has been on a new level again, it has been getting better and better each year. We worked on some really good stuff this winter and it’s really paying off.”
Sitting alongside Gustavsson in a share of second place is Australian Cassie Porter, who carded a round of 67 (-5) to also reach nine-under-par.
After dropping a shot on the first, the 19-year-old got on the birdie train once again rolling in five consecutively on holes four through to eight before making thee birdies and two bogeys on her back nine.
“Today was good. On the first tee, I think from the moment I stepped on there, my heart rate didn’t get below 150 all day,” said Porter. “I had all of my family come out and watch me and it made me a bit nervous.
“The bogey on the first was probably a good thing, it just settled me and made me get into my processes and all the things I needed to do. It was really good today."
One shot further back on eight-under-par is a trio of players including Scotland’s Michele Thomson, who signed for a third round of 67 (-5).
“I played really good and just really solidly. I finally found my driver and started hitting fairways which I’m kind of used to, but recently hasn’t been that great,” said the Scot.
“My putter has been quite hot this week, I have been able to read the lines pretty well. I made a lot of birdies out there today. There was one silly double from nothing really, just a bad drive. I’m excited for tomorrow and giving myself a chance.”
Thomson is in a tie for fourth place with Argentina’s Magdalena Simmermacher and Wales’ Lydia Hall, who both shot rounds of 70 on day three.
England’s Alice Hewson is in seventh place on seven-under-par after also carding a round of 70, while New Zealand’s Momoka Kobori and Malaysia’s Genevieve Ling sit in T8 on five-under-par.
Australian amateur Kelsey Bennett is in a share of 10th place on four-under alongside England’s Hannah Burke, New Zealand’s Hanee Song and Malaysian amateur Jeneath Wong.