Walker’s first-tee fear unfounded as she leads

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RACHEL Walker overcame a frightening first-tee flashback to set the pace at the halfway stage in the 36-hole qualifying for the Scottish Women’s Championship at Longniddry.

On a windy and occasionally wet day on the East Lothian coast, the Dumfries & County player signed for a one-over-par 75 to lead by a shot from fellow 19-year-old Jessica Meek (Carnoustie Ladies) and Kilmacolm’s Eilidh Briggs.

“I didn’t think I’d played here before but then I realised I had when I arrived,” said Walker. “And it brought back bad memories as I topped if off the first tee on that occasion.”

Despite a better opening effort this time, she dropped a shot at the opening hole, as did Meek, and then three-putted for a par at the next but thereafter her golf was “really steady”.

Walker, coached by Stuart Syme in her native Dumfries, played for Scotland in three events last season – the European Girls, Girls’ Home Internationals and Women’s Home Internationals. “It was a real shock to make the women’s team but I was so pleased and it would be nice to win my first national title at some point,” she added. “Last year was the first time I’d played in this event and I lost to Laura Murray, who went on to win it.”

While Walker is heading off to Old Dominion University in Virginia in August, Meek, last year’s Scottish Girls’ Order of Merit winner, has opted for a spell at the University of Missouri. Three-over after three, she found the Longniddry course a much tougher proposition than it had been in her practice round and admitted it has been a “frustrating day”.

Recalling her recent experiences playing alongside professionals on the new Scottish Ladies’ Open Tour, the Angus teenager said: “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that they make something out of their opportunities and that’s something I didn’t do today.”

Briggs, the beaten finalist in the SLGA’s flagship event at Machrihanish in 2011, is off to another encouraging start, as are Craigielaw’s Jane Turner and Hannah Scott of Broomieknowe. Three days after meeting in the final of the Midlothian Women’s Championship, they each signed for a 78 to share joint-fourth spot in the battle for the 32 qualifying spots after today’s second circuit. Host club member Hilary Wardell, the winner 18 years ago, is on course to qualify after a battling 80.