Golf: Mendiburu gives trolley good show: Biarritz blitz tames Duchess

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The Independent Online
A TRICKY business this role reversal. 'It is sometimes hard for a man to take instructions from a woman,' Sandrine Mendiburu said. 'I can understand that but business is business.' The last time Mendiburu saw her caddie, a Londoner, was at a tournament in France. They had an argument and she has not heard from him since.

'It's a bit rude of him,' Mendiburu said, 'not to phone. He said he'd get in touch.' No messages, no flowers, nothing, so when Mendiburu arrived here for the Ford Classic she decided not to employ a caddie at all. Yesterday, in the first round, she pulled her bag on a trolley and found herself in the joint lead at five under par following a 69. Laura Davies, who is parting company with her caddie after 18 successful months, is five strokes further back.

'If I have a doubt about anything I call the referee,' Mendiburu, 21 and a professional for three years, said. It was a misunderstanding over the rules that led to the disagreement with her caddie. He urged her to play a provisional ball and the advice ultimately led to a double bogey and a blazing row. At one point she said to him: 'Don't say anything or I'll kill you.'

Mendiburu's father owns a golf driving range in Biarritz and he put a club in her hands when she was three - 'We had a big garden'. Two years ago, in her first full season as a professional, she was 10th in the Order of Merit, winning the Rookie of the Year award, but last year she went backwards, finishing 52nd in the money-list with pounds 5,340. 'It was so bad,' she said.

Mendiburu, who made the perfect start with an eagle-three at the first, would have been the clear leader last night but for a double-bogey six at the 18th where she hit a two-iron approach into the trees. The Duchess course here may be relatively short at 6,107 yards and the par, at 74, may be on the generous side but it is as tight as a drum and the vast majority could not beat it.

Davies, predictably, would prefer to play on the longer, wider Duke's course. She has never won the Ford Classic over the Duchess layout, where they can barely find the fairways for the trees, and significantly the only time she won the tournament was when it was played over the Duke's in 1988.

Davies, the world No 1, had a level-par 74 yesterday when she dared to use her driver on only five occasions. For her it is like playing in a corset even though there are six par fives. In the second round today she will not trust her driver on more than two holes, the 478-yard 10th and the 445-yard 15th. She described them as the two legitimate par fives and as for the rest she thinks she can attack them just as effectively with a two-iron.

In the first round she birdied only one of the par fives, the first, and had a bogey at the sixth where she twice hit the woodwork. 'This is the tightest course in Europe,' Davies said, 'and the greens are tricky to say the least.' At the seventh she never used her putter. She found a greenside bunker with a five-iron and her ball was so impossibly positioned to get it anywhere near the flag that she deliberately left it in the sand. From a better lie in the bunker she holed out for a par three.

There is a Davies on the leaderboard, not English but Welsh. Karen Davies comes from Wrexham but has a home in Florida. A former Curtis Cup player, the 28-year-old Davies turned professional in 1988 and, after achieving the considerable feat of gaining her card on the American Tour, she lost it last year when she suffered from back and hand injuries.

'It put things in perspective,' Davies said. 'I'm more relaxed now. I'm not living and dying on every shot.' Nor has she any caddie problems. Her father Terry is carrying her bag.

FORD WOMEN'S CLASSIC (Duchess course, Woburn) First-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 69 S Mendiburu (Fr), K Davies, M Hageman (Neth). 70 J Bartholomew (US). 72 M Lunn (Aus), C Hall, A Nicholas, F Dassu (It), C Stolz (Aus). 73 T Craik, J Morley, C Nilsmark (Swe), S Van Wyk (SA), A Sorenstam (Swe), P Wright, D Reid, S Prosser, S Waugh (Aus), G Stewart. 74 T Johnson, L Davies, S Moon (US), S Strudwick, W Dicks. 75 E Orley (Swit), C Soules (Fr), K Marshall, S Hodge, R Hast, A Brighouse, L Fairclough, C Dibnah (Aus), A Arruti (Sp), C Panton-Lewis, K Douglas, E Knuth (Sp). 76 L Navarro (Sp), E Rundle, K Lunn (Aus), K Espinasse (Fr), R Lautens (Swit), T Loveys, H Hopkins (Aus), M Bertilskold (Swe), L Tadiotto (Bel), J Germs (SA), L Maritz- Atkins (SA), J Forbes, J Hill (Zim). 77 M Burstrom (Swe), H Wadsworth, J Allmark (Swe), A Shapcott, T Yarwood, V Michaud (Fr), K Orum (Den), D Dowling, D Hanna.