Golf: Wonder from Woolies lands a hole in one: Morley's ace at the 142-yard 13th helps to move her within a stroke of the leader in the Ford Women's Classic

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THE women's European Tour, which was close to its grave last year and is now swinging in the cradle, showed yesterday that it can command an audience. So many people flocked to the Golf and Country Club here they had to turn out sheep from a nearby field to accommodate the car queues edging in from the M1. Environmentalists would find this disturbingly unnatural.

A number of factors contributed to the cattle falling to the catalytic converters: sunshine, a good field, in terms of players rather than sheep, and the fact that the Ford Classic, the overture to the Tour, does not sponsor this solely for the benefit of women's professional golf.

In all, about 250,000 tickets are given away during the week and although a small percentage are used, yesterday's attendance figure of 8,430 compares very favourably with the numbers for the Dunhill British Masters, one of the big-money tournaments on the men's Tour. Every woman captain of every golf club in the country is sent six tickets for this event; there were promotions at every Ford garage and there was also a phone line offering free tickets. Every inquirer has to give name, address and the make of car they drive and this supplies Ford with what they call 'data captives'. Those who escaped the computer will pay pounds 8 per car today and pounds 10 tomorrow.

The most striking performances yesterday came from Catrin Nilsmark, one of the heroines of Europe's Solheim Cup victory over the United States at Dalmahoy, and Joanne Morley, a heroine of Great Britain and Ireland's Curtis Cup victory over the United States at Hoylake, both occurring in 1992. Nilsmark is at seven under, Morley six.

Morley is the wonder of Woolies. When the Tour was struggling for survival last year, she deferred turning professional, preferring to earn a living in the record and video department of Woolworth's at Stretford, in Manchester. The job, which she left in January, has been kept open for her. Morley, 27 and from Sale, is playing in her first tournament as a professional and yesterday she moved to within a stroke of the leader Nilsmark with a 69 that included a hole in one at the 13th. She had 142 yards to the flag and her six-iron shot took one bounce and dropped into the hole. Morley did not see it, but the roar of the crowd alerted her to the ace. She had turned away to hand her club to her caddie.

'It made me more nervous. My heart was going dum, dum, dum, dum, dum,' she said, patting her chest for useful sound-effects. It was the second hole in one of her life, the other coming in a monthly medal at Altrincham in 1984.

The Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup with lipstick, is being held in West Virginia in October and to make the team is the main goal of Nilsmark and every other leading professional. 'It's not in my mind,' Morley, whose ambition is to become rookie of the year, said. Nilsmark, 26 and from Gothenburg, sank the putt two years ago that sealed Europe's triumph at Dalmahoy and was immediately submerged by her team-mates.

Her 68 yesterday was the best score of the championship thus far and it contained an extraordinary nine birdies. Nilsmark, 5ft 11in, is something of a high-flyer. Apart from holding a pilot's licence, she rides a 1,340cc Harley Davidson around Sweden with Henrik, her boyfriend, hanging on for dear life.

Nilsmark has made a couple of changes since 1992, which she thinks has made her a better player. A course of weight-training and a slight change in her technique has put up to 20 yards on her drives. At the first, a par five of 415 yards, she was left with a seven-iron second shot after a drive of about 275 yards. That is in the Laura Davies league.

Karen Davies, the joint leader overnight, fell back with a 79, while Laura Davies shot 73 to stand at one under for the tournament. Although the Duchess course, which has more trees than Yosemite National Park, is not exactly her neck of the woods, the world No 1 is not out of it.

FORD WOMEN'S CLASSIC (Woburn) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 141 C Nilsmark (Swe) 73 68. 142 J Morley 73 69; M Lunn (Aus) 72 70. 144 M Hageman (Neth) 69 75; F Dassu (It) 72 72; A Sorenstam (Swe) 73 71; T Johnson 74 70. 146 A Arruti (Sp) 75 71; S Strudwick 74 72; S Prosser 73 73; C Hall 72 74. 147 S Moon (US) 74 73; S Mendiburu (Fr) 69 78; A Nicholas 72 75; L Davies 74 73. 148 J Bartholomew (US) 70 78; L Fairclough 75 73; D Reid 73 75; J Forbes 76 72; S Waugh (Aus) 73 75; C Stolz (Aus) 72 76; K Davies 69 79.

(Photograph omitted)

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