Rising Spanish star Natalia Escuriola Martinez leads by a stroke over compatriot Carlota Ciganda early on day one of the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open de España Femenino.
Buoyed by memories of winning the Guadalmina Campeonato de Spanish España at Real Club de Golf Guadalmina on the Santander Golf Tour 14 months ago, the 23-year-old second year LET member from Castellón made eight birdies and dropped just one stroke in an opening round of 65 on Thursday morning.
She said: “Today I felt really good and played easy shots, so I think that was the key. I felt relaxed today and I’m playing in Spain. I love this course because I won a tournament here last year, so this is good for me.”
Natalia finished second on the LET Access Series Order of Merit in 2015, after two victories at the CitizenGuard LETAS Trophy as an amateur and the season-ending WPGA International Challenge, earning her full card for the 2016 Ladies European Tour 2016 season, Her best finish on the LET so far has been a tie for 63rd in last year’s Omega Dubai Ladies Masters. She returned Lalla Aicha Tour School in December and finished 12th but since then has been mixing her time between playing on the LET and the Spanish Santander Tour.
Ciganda, who has been playing on the LET and LPGA, also made eight birdies, but carded two bogeys. The recent Solheim Cup player, who is seeing the venue for the first time this week, said: “My putting was good today and I made eight birdies, with four birdies on the par fives. I like the course and it’s nice to play back in Europe. I have my family and friends here supporting and it’s always nice to play in front of them.
“I was trying to hit fairways and greens and make a few putts. The par-5s are reachable, so if you have a good day with the putter you can make a lot of birdies. There are a few narrow holes where you have to be on the fairway, but today was good. The greens were rolling really well.”
Marion Ricordeau from France was in the clubhouse on five-under-par after returning a 67, with Lydia Hall of Wales on four-under.
Suzann Pettersen was part of a large group on three-under-par after 12 holes as the first round continued in hot and sunny conditions on the Costa del Sol.