O'Sullivan leads the way as Tramore takes its toll


TRAMORE ain't no lady, as competitors in the Lancome Irish Women's Close Championship have discovered over the past couple of days. And the tough parkland course bared its teeth again yesterday no one managed to dip below par, although international Ada O'Sullivan had some consolation in collecting the Leitrim Cup as leading qualifier.

Indeed, it was a case of "mission accomplished" for all the leading contenders, with no surprise casualties when the cut came on 171, 11 over par. O'Sullivan, winner of the Hermitage Serateh Cup two weeks ago, finished on four over par 154 the same mark as Lillian Behan but won the first piece of silverware on offer thanks to a better second round, 76 as against Behan's 79.

The real business, however, starts with today's first round of match play, although the stroke play stages can be a useful guide in determining form. As such, Hazel Kavanagh, who was a Curtis Cup squad member but failed to make the team for next month's match in Killarney, was far from happy with a second round 90 for 169, leaving her a tough first round encounter with former international Carol Wickham.

O'Sullivan, though, is in the sort of mood to make a real assault on a crown which has evaded her best attempts. "I'm having some problems on the greens," she admitted,, "but otherwise my game is in very good shape. I am playing well."

The 32 year old Monkstown golfer who has never made it past the quarter final stages in the national championships had two birdies at the dogleg, par four fourth hole, she hit her eight iron approach to 12 feet, and at the par three sixth repeated the effort to 10 feet.

But O'Sullivan, who also led the qualifiers at Co Sligo in 1994, three putted on four occasions, at the seventh, ninth, 11th and 14th holes. "My putting is the only thing I am worried about, but it seems all the players are having problems in this area. The greens are very fast."

O'Sullivan has reached the quarter finals on three occasions at Royal Portrush in 1982, Cork in 1983 and Rosses Point in 1994 and said "I aim to go further here." She will have local opposition today in Tramore's Helen Costello, a sister of former international Michael Burns.

Former British Amateur champion Behan, playing in the event for the first time in 10 years, failed to hold onto her overnight lead on a dry day when the stiff wind made conditions difficult for the competitors.

Behan, winner of the recent Curragh and Heath Scratch Cups, is also pursuing her first Irish Close title. She will face girls' international Julie Bradley, who survived right on the cut off mark after enduring a harrowing final couple of holes, today.

Curtis Cup player Eileen Rose Power shared the distinction with O'Sullivan of shooting the best round of the day, a 76. The defending champion a three time winner of the title starts her matchplay campaign against Royal Co Down's Emma Dickson.