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Ormskirk’s Gray has Texas in her sights

ALI Gray has twice won the Titleist and FootJoy WPGA Championship but she agrees victory in this year’s event at Trentham would be the most significant of the trio.

That’s because it would guarantee her a place in the Great Britain and Ireland team that will contest the inaugural WPGA Cup in Austin, Texas, in October.

Four places in the five-strong line-up will be determined by this and last year’s performances in the WPGA’s flagship tournament and, having finished tied-third 12 months ago, Gray is in a good position to push on and claim one of them.

“Obviously I’m keen to win the event but the prospect of playing in the WPGA Cup in Texas is an even bigger incentive,” said Gray. “That would be fantastic.”

Victory in the second WPGA Series event of the season at her home course of Ormskirk has boosted Gray’s confidence before the event.

As has her experience of Trentham last year when she and Maria Tulley of Eastbourne Downs Golf Club finished two shots adrift of Keely Chiericato and Heather MacRae.

“I like the course – it suits my game and things went well at Ormskirk,” added the professional half of last season’s winning duo in the WPGA Lombard Trophy final in Portugal.

“I won the first two WPGA Championships in 2003 and 2004 so another win is long overdue!”

Gray and Tulley earned seven-and-a-half points out of a possible 10 for their efforts last year and the latter is similarly well-placed to qualify for Texas.

And those hopes have been boosted given that Chiericato, who received the maximum after defeating MacRae in a play-off after the pair ended tied first on one-under-par, is not available to defend her title.

All which leaves MacRae in pole position on nine points going into the 36-hole tournament that carries a £6,000 prize fund with £1,000 going to the winner.

And with points worth half as much again as last year, MacRae can afford to finish as low as fifth and still be assured of a place in the WPGA Cup team.

In addition to Gray, MacRae, who won the event in 2016, will be joined by five other former champions: Tracy Loveys, Alexandra Keighley, Suzanne Dickens, Alison Nicholas and Catherine Panton-Lewis.

Nicolas, British Women’s Open champion in 1987 and US Open champion a decade later, and Panton-Lewis with four points apiece, and Loveys with a half, are the only others in the field who scored points last year.