Anne-Lise Caudal shot a six under par 66 to grab a one stroke clubhouse lead at the Ladies Irish Open, supported by Fáilte Ireland.
Caudal made the most of the good scoring conditions at Killeen Castle early in the morning, going to the turn in 32 after firing two eagles, two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine. She fired three more birdies and two bogeys to come home in 34.
Lee-Anne Pace shot 67 and revealed that the pair had made two bets as they had walked off the practice putting green.
Pace said: “Anne-Lise and I had a bet this morning as we walked off the green. We said, ‘Let’s play for most birdies and best score.’
“I think I was one under and I saw her after four holes and I went birdie, eagle, so I jumped her and then she jumped me. It was quite fun to follow the board and see what she was doing.”
Pace matched Caudal with five birdies and added an eagle on the 15th, but dropped shots at the seventh and 16th.
Dewi Claire Schreefel from the Netherlands, Australian Karen Lunn and American Kim Welch all shot 68 to end a stroke further back.
Caudal, the 2008 Portugal Ladies Open champion, had low expectations as she is playing with an injured right wrist, but would be happy to add to her three top-ten finishes so far this year.
“I’m very happy because I had a really good day with five birdies and two eagles,” said the 27-year-old from Ciboure in south-western France. On her two eagles, she added: “I had one on number two. I holed my third shot from 73 metres. I hit the green on seven and I made the putt from six or seven metres.”
Pace finished first on the Ladies European Tour’s 2010 Henderson Money List after five victories last year, but with five top-ten finishes this season, she is hungry for her sixth win.
“I’m really happy. I played really well today,” said the 30-year-old from Mossel Bay on the Southern Cape of South Africa.
“The wind came up a little on our back nine. It started playing a little bit longer. It’s not playing as long as what it did last year. It rained a little bit more last year but the course is in great condition and the greens are running fantastic so I think it makes a big difference.”
Lunn, looking for her tenth LET title, said: “There are two more days left and it’s a world class field and you’ve got some great names on the leader board. It’s going to take some great golf to win, but I’m playing well so I’ve just got to keep going.
“It was very score-able this morning. There was only a little bit of breeze up so it was there for the taking; there were some good scores. I played really well today and I didn’t make that many putts. I just hit nearly every fairway and most of the greens and I’m really happy with that start.”
Evergreen Laura Davies finished at three under alongside Linda Wessberg, Karen Stupples and Beatriz Recari.
Davies, who is poised to make her 12th Solheim Cup appearance on this course in September after five wins last season, said: “I’m pleased I’ve shot three under but it’s the worst I possibly could have done. I missed so many putts out there. I think I had 34 putts and I hit three par fives in two and drive a par four and just couldn’t make anything. It was a shame really because I hit it a lot better than that.”
Among the late starters, Azahara Munoz and Ashleigh Simon were four under par after 10 and nine holes respectively, with Christel Boeljon, Maria Hjorth, Caroline Hedwall and Alison Walshe a stroke further back.