England’s Rebecca Hudson and Germany’s Steffi Kirchmayr carded a pair of three under par 69s in sunny conditions to set the clubhouse target on the first morning of the Cell C South African Women’s Open.
Both players posted five birdies and two bogeys on the 6312 yard par-72 golf course at San Lameer Country Club on the sub-tropical Hibiscus Coast in KwaZulu-Natal, two hours south of Durban.
They ended the morning session a stroke ahead of four other players on two-under-par. England’s Charley Hull was leading after four birdies in her first seven holes, but bogeyed the 17th and 18th in a light rain shower, before a heavy downpour hit the course and set in around 2.30pm.
The greens quickly flooded and play was suspended at 2.45pm due to unplayable conditions. No further play was possible on Thursday and at 4pm, Ladies European Tour Tournament Director Michael Wood announced that first round play would resume at 6.30am local time on Friday, followed by the second round from 8.30am.
Earlier in the day, after starting from the first hole at 6.41am, the 33-year-old Hudson, from Doncaster, took advantage of the favourable conditions and made her first birdie on the third hole, with a putt of 15 feet. She bogeyed the tough par-four seventh after finding the greenside bunker but recovered with a birdie on the downhill ninth, where she hit a seven-iron to ten feet. Coming in, she made an eight footer for birdie on 12, bogeyed 15, playing into the wind and birdied holes 17 and 18, with putts from six and 15 feet respectively.
She said: “I haven’t played well these last couple of weeks so I didn’t come here with high expectations. I just had a swing thought, played the shots I wanted and made a few nice putts so it was a great way to start.”
Hudson has fond memories from South Africa, where she won the 2006 SA Women’s Open at Durban GC and 2008 WPGA Masters at Park View GC on the WPGA of SA. She said: “They have wonderful golf courses in South Africa. It’s nice to be in this area on the Hibiscus Coast.”
Kirchmayr, 29, from Nürnberg in Bavaria, made a slow start with a bogey on number two but fired three birdies on the fourth, eighth and 10th before recovering from her bogey on 16 with a pair of birdies on 17 and 18. The third year LET member, who registered a career best finish of tied 16th in Italy this year, is seeking a strong finish to secure her tour card for next season by moving up into the top 80 on the ISPS HANDA Order of Merit where she is currently ranked 98th.
“I think I put too much pressure on myself the last few weeks so I didn’t score well. This week is more about having fun and if it works, it works. I know I have some pressure but I’m a little more relaxed,” said Kirchmayr, who has twice previously led a tournament on the Ladies European Tour.
Of the players on two-under, Sanz and In-Albon had the earliest tee time of 6.30am. Spain’s Sanz said that she still had adrenaline in her blood after performing a daring gorge swing on the eve of the tournament.
“It was just my goal to have fun,” Sanz said. “The last couple of events I have been struggling to enjoy myself on the course so I just wanted to give myself a chance.
“I birdied the first hole, I hit it a little right of the fairway but then close to eight feet, more or less. I had a couple of birdie opportunities that I missed and then a couple of bogeys and I finished birdie, birdie, par, so that was good.”
In-Albon, from Switzerland, is ranked 126th on tour and is also trying to retain her LET tour card for 2015. She commented: “It was quite a solid round today. I hit 14 fairways and 17 greens so I think my game was just on but I did miss a lot of birdie opportunities in the beginning. In the end it was a solid round and shows me that there is still room for improvement.”
Germany’s Ann-Kathrin Lindner and Frenchwoman Valentine Derrey, who claimed her first LET title at the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open in May, are at two under. Derrey said: “The back nine, I shot three under, so I made the turn at one over. I was one under before nine and had a double on nine, the par 3, and hit it in the water, so then three birdies on the back nine. I played good golf: 16 greens, 29 putts, so pretty good.”