Australians Katherine Hull and Karen Lunn combined for a sensational fourball score of seven under par 65 at the European Nations Cup in Spain on Thursday.
The pair posted nine birdies and two bogeys on a sunny day at La Sella Golf Resort in Dénia, Alicante and took a one stroke advantage over the Spanish team of Azahara Muñoz and Maria Hernández.
The Australians made a flying start with four straight birdies from the third hole. Australia led by a stroke at the turn after Hull made a two-putt birdie at the par-five ninth hole, for an outward total of 31.
Lunn then made a 25-footer for birdie on 11 to get the team to six under. Hull got up and down for birdie on the par-five 12th to move two clear of Spain but then both of the Australians bogeyed the tricky par-four 13th, which was playing into the wind.
Hull made amends at the next, making birdie from the fringe before both players dropped shots at the par-three 17th. The pair re-grouped though and Hull made birdie at the last for a inward total of 34 to maintain the team’s halfway lead over Spain.
Australia is looking for revenge after Lunn and Karrie Webb were defeated at the third extra hole of a tense sudden-death play-off against Sweden last year. Lunn joked earlier in the week that she still wasn’t over the disappointment.
The 2010 Portugal Ladies Open champion said after her round: “We were definitely happy with the score. Katherine played great today. I managed to help her out on a few holes but no, she kept the team together.”
Hull, visiting Spain for the first time, said: “It was a really good start. I think I had six birdies and Karen had three, so we combined really well and she made some good par putts too, which was nice.
“This is the first time for me that I’ve represented Australia professionally and I mean, for Karen, this is probably the only event that she gets that chance too, so it’s nice. You grow up playing for Australia as a kid but once you turn pro the opportunities aren’t there so to fly the flag as a pro is a dream.”
Muñoz and Hernández combined to shoot a bogey-free round containing six birdies, with four on the front nine.
Muñoz said: “It’s really nice to play with Maria. Golf is such an individual sport that it’s always nice when you get the chance to play as a team.”
Italians Giulia Sergas and Veronica Zorzi share third with the English pairing of Laura Davies and Melissa Reid a shot further off the pace at five under 67.
Reid rued a few missed chances on the greens and said: “We wanted to get to six under really. We had a few putts, Laura had about four putts really, that should have gone in and I had a couple. Five under was okay and the pins were pretty tricky so I’m quite happy, I think. There are two more days and five under is a good start.”
Zorzi, who has played in all four editions of the event, explained that she teamed well with Sergas as they hit the ball similar distances: “We played well. We had six birdies and just one bogey. When Giulia was in trouble I made a par so we played well together.”
The Welsh duo of Becky Brewerton and Lydia Hall sit tied for fifth on 68 with the French pair Karine Icher and Virginie-Lagoutte Clement and the 2010 champions Anna Nordqvist and Sophie Gustafson from Sweden. Norway shares ninth with Scotland, while the USA occupies tenth place.
The format of play for Friday’s second round in the 72-hole strokeplay event is Valencian Cup, a variation on foursomes. The 18 teams are playing for a €350,000 purse and the winning team will take home €84,000.