Golf: Sugg struggles to gain recognition: Johnson stays in touch with the leaders

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THERE ARE two players working in close harmony in the Ford Classic, and what sets them apart from the rest of the field is not that they are young and gifted, but that they are black. Black golfers are conspicuous by their presence. 'It's not important what you are, but what you score,' LaRee Sugg said.

Her partner, Robert Forde, was less philosophical. 'To get on it's who you know, not what you know,' he said, 'and then if you're lucky it's what you know that keeps you there.'

Sugg, 23, from Petersburg in Virginia, turned professional last year after winning a golf scholarship to UCLA, during which she compiled an impressive record on the American junior circuit. She failed by three strokes to gain her card on the lucrative LPGA tour in the United States, and is grateful to play on its impoverished cousin in Europe.

'I'm quite happy,' she said. 'The girls are very nice and the competition is excellent. I can learn a lot here. The trouble is it costs a lot of money, and my parents have to pay for everything. I would face the same obstacles no matter what I pursued.' There has been no black player on the LPGA Tour for 25 years.

'It makes me more determined to do well,' Sugg said. 'I want to prove myself as a player first. Golf is a very expensive sport. Black people have not had access to public courses in America until fairly recently.'

Forde, who was born in Reading, Berkshire, and whose parents come from Guyana, is carrying Sugg's bag here, repaying a debt.

At the European Tour Qualifying School at Montpellier last year, Sugg caddied for Forde. He failed to get his card and is now attempting to make his way on the secondary Challenge Tour. Aged 26, he did not take up the game until he was 16.

The priority of the Sugg-Forde team at Woburn yesterday was to make the halfway cut. After the first round she was three over par, and yesterday she spent much longer on the practice ground than intended, after the start was delayed by fog. When the sun shone so did Sugg, and she had enough birdies to move through the field.

Trish Johnson, after winning successive tournaments in America, was again on the leaderboard, a two-under- par 72 putting her at five under for the tournament. 'I will have to play better than that to win,' she said. 'It is baffling how quickly you can go from being very, very good to very average.' Even so, Johnson was only a stroke behind Veronique Palli, of France, whose 69 was the first score below 70 and Helen Wadsworth, who shot 70.

FORD WOMEN'S CLASSIC (Woburn): Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 142 V Palli (Fr) 73 69; H Wadsworth 72 70. 143 T Johnson 71 72; D Reid 71 72; A Sorenstam (Swe) 71 72. 144 R Lautens (Swit) 73 71. 145 F Dassu (It) 72 73. 146 K Lunn (Aus) 75 71; L Fairclough 74 72. 147 S Moon (US) 73 74; S Mendiburu (Fr) 73 74; T Yarwood 72 75; L Hackney 70 77; L Maritz (SA) 75 72; J Hill (Zim) 74 73. 148 H Dobson 74 74.

As Seve Ballesteros and three other members of the last Ryder Cup team - David Feherty, Steve Richardson and Mark James - missed the halfway cut in the Cannes Open, Australia's Rodger Davis (64) and Sweden's Pierre Fulke (66) cruised to 10-under-par totals of 132, two shots clear of the Australian rookie Jamie Taylor.