PLAYING golf on a worldwide stage is a novel experience for South Korean Jin-Young Ko. But with the wind whipping at her waterproofs and the rain stotting off the turf, the 20-year-old proved she is a quick learner yesterday at Turnberry.
With a third-round 69 in the Ricoh Women’s British Open, the youngster found herself tied at the top with Taiwan’s Teresa Lu on eight under par. They go into today’s final round a shot ahead of the halfway leader, Norway’s Suzann Pettersen.
Two British challengers impressed. England’s Mel Reid finished eagle, birdie for a 69 and four under par, while Welsh youngster Amy Boulden had a best-of-day 68 for three under.
Ko opened with rounds of 68 and 71 and her 69 contained four birdies – her only bogey was at the 16th – and even she was surprised by her elevated position on the leaderboard.
But she attributed her almost instant success on a famous links course to a chance meeting on Tuesday with a local Girvan chap, Jeff Brighton. Over the last three days they have formed a great team as player and caddie
“Today was a really good score and I never thought I would be leading such a big tournament,” said the smiling youngster, trying to cope with the English language as majestically as she did the Scottish weather.
“I only had one practice round, but I have a really good caddie in Jeff. He’s really nice and a very good player. He tells me that it is always like this in Scotland. The sun, rain, wind – all the seasons in one day.
“I have never played in such terrible weather but it is very different and I’m enjoying it very much.”
Six-time major winner Inbee Park is a big threat. The 27-year-old shot a 69 and is just three behind on five under and there is an inkling that a great round is waiting to emerge from the great South Korean.
“We always expect this sort of weather in Scotland but I am really excited going into the final round,” said the LPGA champion. “Actually today we were quite lucky because the rain didn’t last the whole way round.”
With squally showers and driving winds making conditions totally miserable, Reid’s golf matched the mood when she opened with a double-bogey and was four over par after six holes.
But the Derbyshire 27-year-old then reeled off six birdies and an eagle in the next 12 holes to bounce back into contention. “After the start the aim was to get back to par so the back nine was really a bonus,” said the player who has enjoyed a great deal of success as an amateur in Scotland.
In 2007, she won the Helen Holm Scottish Open Strokeplay Championship at Troon, the St Rule Trophy at St Andrews and she was top amateur in this event at St Andrews.
At the 457-yard 17th, she hit a sublime three-wood second and holed the 12-foot putt for the eagle and she rammed it home from 18 feet at the last for the grandstand finish.
Five days before her 22nd birthday, Wales’ Boulden, a blonde professional’s daughter from Llandudno, had five birdies and just one bogey.
She was the Ladies’ European Tour Rookie of the Year last season and she has a great amateur record, including a famous triumph playing for Great Britain and Ireland against America in the 2012 Curtis Cup at Nairn.
Her first professional win came in Switzerland on the Ladies’ European Tour Access Series – she defeated Scot Sally Watson in a play-off – and just last week she had a top-eight finish in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies’ Scottish Open at Dundonald.
“Links golf in this weather seems to suit me,” said the 21-year-old after surviving a battle against the elements on the Ayrshire coast. “Playing last week gave me a lot of confidence and today was great.”
Pettersen, who shot 72, remains poised for a final-day attack and 18-year-old world No.2 Lydia Ko also shot 72 to stand alongside Park on five under, three off the lead.
Two Scots made the cut but today they will be playing for the minor places. Carly Booth was out first with a marker and shot 79 for 12 over par and Catriona Matthew, the 2009 champion, had a second successive 77 for nine over par.