|Amy Boulden during her first round of 66 (-5)|
Four players held a share of the lead halfway through the first round of the Sberbank Golf Masters in the Czech Republic on Friday.
|Australian Nikki Garrett|
Amy Boulden, Nikki Garrett, Julie Greciet and Pamela Pretswell all carded five-under-par rounds of 66 under clear blue skies with highs of 26C at Golf Park Plzeň – Dýšina near Pilsen.
First year professional Boulden from Wales had the second bogey-free round of her career to leap into contention for her first title on the Ladies European Tour (LET).
With five birdies, on the fifth, ninth, 14th, 15th and 17th, the 20-year-old from Llandudno continued her impressive run of form, which began in early May when she won her first professional title in Switzerland on the LET Access Series.
Since then, she has qualified for the US Women’s Open, then, after being first reserve, qualified for the Ricoh Women’s British Open via the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters. She then earned a career best tie for fourth place at last week’s Ladies German Open presented by Marriott with four rounds in the 60s.
Speaking after her first round, Boulden said: “Today was really steady and I putted well. It was great to play with Klára Spilková, because she brought all the fans today and it was great fun because they were really supportive.
“It’s a nice course. It’s quite short but it’s fiddly so it’s not playing as short as the yardage. I think you have to putt well around here and hit it straight off the tee. I holed out quite well. I just missed a couple of greens and managed to get up and down to save my par. The other times I was hitting it quite close for birdie and holing 10 footers, which you have to do around here.
“The last few weeks have been good and I’ve been trying to build on the momentum each week. This is my last week of playing and I don’t think I’m in the Scottish at the moment so I’m making the most of it before a bit of a break.
“This is my sixth week in a row after the US Women’s Open. It wasn’t supposed to be like that because I got into the Bucks at the last minute and then the Ricoh Women’s British Open. I’m just trying to make the most of each week because I still don’t have my full card. I’m trying to earn enough money to secure my card for next year.”
|Early co-leader Julie Greciet of France|
Garrett was thrilled with her five-under 66, which was her best round since last October. She fired five birdies and one bogey on the front nine and picked up another stroke on the par-5 14th.
“It was a really good start. I got off to a flyer and was four under after six. When you play good you always leave a couple out there so it could have been better but it could have been a lot worse,” Garrett said.
“This is definitely a strategic course. I like this course and remembered it from last year. I like courses where you don’t have to hit your driver and can think you’re way around. It’s a great little thinking course and it’s far to everyone I think. It’s not that hilly, there are two or three hills where you can feel some burn but it is warm so physical fitness is playing a part.”
Garrett revealed that she almost quit golf as she ‘hated it’ last year. “I had a really tough year mentally and physically last year and even at the start of this year in Australia I didn’t like it much at all. I took three months off after the Australian summer and almost didn’t come back out but I decided to conquer some demons and I’ve played pretty well. My scores, besides one round, I’ve played pretty consistent and getting some good scores in. I definitely haven’t regretted deciding to come back for the six weeks anyway. When I go home I’ll reassess and see if I come out for the second half of the season as well.”
|Pamela Pretswell and her father, Willie|
Pretswell and Greciet are both targeting their first victories on the LET, although Pretswell won on the LET Access Series as an amateur in 2012.
After a 7am tee time, Pretswell birdied the second and third, but dropped a shot after three-putting at the tough par-3 fourth hole, which has been lengthened for this year’s tournament. The 25-year-old from Hamilton in Scotland then birdied four of five holes from the seventh. She said: “I made a really good start when I got up and down for par at the first and made birdie on two and three and kicked on from there.
“The course is in really good condition and the green keepers have worked hard. The greens are perfect and they’ve added a few different tees which has made a big difference to the course.”
Like Pretswell, Greciet has her father on caddie duties and the 27-year-old from Bayonne picked up four shots in her last five holes with an eagle on 14 followed by birdies on holes 15 and 18.
Greciet, who earned a career best finish of second at the 2011 Prague Golf Masters at Albatross Golf Resort, said: “I played very well and I had one bogey on nine because my ball was plugged in the bunker and I had no chance, but I had an eagle on 14 and birdie on 15 and 18 so I’m happy because my putting was very good and I took 30 putts and hit 16 greens today. On 14, I hit driver and the second shot to 10 metres and made the putt. On 15, I took a small 6-iron and made a putt of seven metres.”
The first round continued under sunny skies.