Stefania Croce took a one stroke lead on the opening day of the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open with a three under par 70 at National Golf Club in Belek, Antalya.
Italian Croce, the 1992 Ford Classic champion, birdied the par-five 12th and also picked up a shot at the par-four 18th to finish two under for the back nine.
The 40-year-old from Bergamo then birdied the third and bogeyed the fifth, with a closing birdie on the ninth lifting her one clear of Sarah Kemp and Tania Elosegui.
“I trusted my game,” said Croce, who turned professional in 1989. “I think course management and being positive on every hole was the key.
“It was a little tiring because of the wind and I was always thinking, ‘Where do I want to put the ball from the tee and where do I want to put the ball on the green?’ because the greens are fast.”
Australian Kemp also mastered the demanding, narrow tree-lined fairways, grabbing the early lead in the brilliant morning sunshine with a two under 71 that included four birdies and two bogeys.
The 25-year-old from Sydney dropped a shot at the par-five 15th, but picked up four birdies and another bogey on the front nine.
“It was a really slow start, I bogeyed 15: hit my second shot right and I didn’t get up and down. Then I just holed a few more putts on the front,” said Kemp.
Spain’s Elosegui, the 2009 ABN AMRO Ladies Open champion, mixed five birdies and three bogeys to finish her round of 71 as dark storm clouds began to gather later in the day.
The 29-year-old from San Sebastian said: “I was very consistent from the tee, so that was the key of today and then the putting on the back nine was great. I made a couple of seven footers for birdie so I’m happy.”
Five other players broke par on the first day and shared fourth place on one under. They were Marjet van der Graaff from the Netherlands, France’s Elena Giraud, Lydia Hall of Wales, England’s Florentyna Parker and Malene Jorgensen from Denmark. The Netherlands’Christel Boeljon, Joanna Klatten of France and the English duo of Liz Bennett and Georgina Simpson were at level par.
South African Laurette Maritz enjoyed an auspicious start when she made her 11th ever hole-in-one at the 147-yard par-three 11th hole.
“At the beginning of the season I said: 2011, number 11, but that was the last thing on my mind and I was just trying to make a good swing,” said Maritz, who made her last ace just before the 2008 Women’s World Cup of Golf. This time, she used a five-iron to hit the flag stick at full force before watching her ball disappear straight down the hole, without even touching the sides. The Ladies European Tour’s Chief Rules Official Marc Vande Broek remarked: “I’ve never seen a hole in one like that and I’ve seen quite a lot!”
Italian Diana Luna made a flying start with five birdies in her first six holes, but was among 14 players finishing at one over for the day.
The recent Lalla Meryem Cup champion Zuzana Kamasova was a shot further back on two over along with playing partners Sophie Gustafson and Melissa Reid, the 2010 Turkish Airlines Ladies Open champion, who was suffering from a cold and Christina Kim among others.
Round two is scheduled to commence at 8am on Friday, however heavy rain is forecast overnight.