Golf: Watton's double bogey grounds an early eagle

MORTONHALL'S Rachael Watton led the Lothians challenge into the second and final stroke-play qualifying round in the 97th Scottish Women's Golf Championship in Machrihanish.

The 18-year-old, who helped Scotland end a long title drought in the Home Internationals last year, trailed leader Megan Briggs by just two shots after an opening 74 on the Kintyre Peninsula.

In an adventurous front nine, Watton opened with an eagle-3, dropped a shot at the next then went birdie-birdie before running up a double-bogey 7 at the seventh after losing a ball from the tee

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"This is a really good golf course," declared Watton. "If you hit a good shot, you will get your reward."

She held the clubhouse lead for a short spell before Briggs, the 2009 winner, came in with her 71 while defending champion Kelsey MacDonald and Fife 15-year-old Lauren Whyte both signed for 72s.

Watton caddied for MacDonald in last year's final at Craigielaw after losing to the same player in the quarter-finals.

"I'd rather be there for myself this year," she declared and there's no reason why that can't happen.

Watton has added ten yards to her game after linking up with coach Neil Marr and has arrived at Machrihanish feeling fully fit.

"The hip problem that caused me problems for a spell and stopped me going to the gym is fine now," she reported.

Midlothian champion Karen Marshall and Craigielaw's Jane Turner both signed for 77s, one less than Broomieknowe duo Kate McIntosh and Wendy Nicholson.

Marshall reckoned some poor shots around the green had stopped her from finishing farther up the leaderboard on a day when conditions were a lot different to Monday's practice round.

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"Club selection was very difficult out there," said the Baberton player, who will captain Scotland in the Girls' Home Internationals at Gullane in August.

Turner, a quarter-finalist on home turf 12 months ago, was out in one-over after a "steady" front nine.

But the two-time British Universities champion blamed "scrappy" play for the four shots she then let spill in three holes from the 11th.

It was one single hole that did the damage for McIntosh, the Scottish Junior Champion of Champions winner earlier this year.

She was going along nicely until the 17th, hooking two drives out of bounds there and then birdieing it with the third one for a triple-bogey 7.

Despite that blip, the rising star was still on course to match her feat from last year of qualifying among the top 32 for the first match-play flight.

So, too, were North Berwick's Clara Young (77) and Craigielaw's Gabrielle MacDonald (78).

Young, the 14-year-old East Lothian champion, covered her last five holes in one-under.