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WIESBADEN, Germany – Jenna Eidem marched through Rheinblick Golf Course on Wednesday with her competition, quite literally, at her heels.

All of her competition, in fact.

The Wiesbaden junior and two-time defending champion opened her bid for a third straight title as part of the tournament’s only girls foursome, the remaining elite of the continent-wide DODDS-Europe field.

The arrangement drastically altered the vibe of the tournament’s first 18 holes, played in two laps around Rheinblick’s back nine as the front nine remained closed.

A golf tournament’s early rounds can be anxious affairs. You might be playing poorly, triggering paranoia that foursomes full of unseen opponents are pushing you down the leaderboard. If you’re playing well, it still might not be as good as a ridiculous number scribbled on some mysterious scorecard elsewhere on the sprawling course.

Those factors weren’t in play for Eidem and her opponents Wednesday, but they were replaced by others. This was golf distilled into head-to-head combat, each towering drive, pinpoint approach and long putt a direct hit on the other three contenders.

“When you see people hit good shots it kind of messes with you,” said Ramstein sophomore Dametrah Lewis. “I could see the tension. I could feel it.

“It’s very exciting.”

Eidem rarely has to worry about challenges from DODDS-Europe foes. But she relished the intensity of Wednesday’s tough group, composed of three of last year’s top European finishers in Lewis, Ramstein’s Michelle Turner and Bitburg’s Samantha Nop.

Eidem said she occasionally fell into the habit of counting each stroke Lewis, her closest competition, took on Wednesday.

“You’ve got to relax,” Eidem said. “The most important thing is playing your game and not playing to your competition.”

Eidem and Lewis are engaged in a burgeoning rivalry. Lewis, who didn’t begin playing competitive golf until last year, doesn’t hide her aspiration to supplant Eidem as DODDS-Europe’s golf gold standard.

“We’re cool. I want a nice friendly competition,” Lewis said. “But I do want to beat her.”

Eidem responds to the challenge with the confident air befitting a reigning champion.

“She’s good competition,” Eidem said, describing Lewis as a “balanced” player and a fun presence on the course. “That’s what I need. I need that competition where I know I can still beat them, but they’ll keep me humble. They’re not just going to hand it over to me.”

This European tournament was more robust in previous years. But as DODDS-Europe sports finds place to streamline, this event’s field is not exempt. This year’s girls group was down from nine a year ago; the boys field was trimmed from 21 to 16.

Eidem will take a six-point lead under Stableford scoring rules into Thursday’s final 18. She leads Lewis 42-36.

The final round of boys competition, meanwhile, has all the makings of a classic finish waiting to happen.

Freshman contender Jordan Holifield of Patch and senior defending champion Everett Plocek of Ramstein ended Wednesday’s first round tied atop the leaderboard with 50 points. Ramstein’s Joshua Davis is in third with 43.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

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