Gwladys Nocera opened with a five-under-par 67 to lead by one stroke over three other players after the first round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open.
The 41-year-old Frenchwoman, who is bidding for her second Scottish Open title after winning in 2008 at The Carrick on Loch Lomond, started with a bogey on the 10th, followed by seven straight pars and a birdie on the 18th, but rallied home with five birdies on the front nine on the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth holes.
The 14-time Ladies European Tour winner ended the day one ahead of England’s Hannah Burke, Becky Morgan of Wales and Nanna Koerstz Madsen from Denmark.
She said: The first couple of holes were pretty hard. It was raining and windy so we had the full experience of Scottish weather. But then it got really good and sunny, not too windy, so we had a good back nine. Sometimes the approaches were close and the putting was good. Everything was good at different times.
“It is a difficult course if the wind picks up because there are a lot of bunkers in play off the tee and the greens have a lot of double slopes, so it’s really hard to read the lines but we’ve done a good job.”
The former LET Order of Merit winner, currently ranked 32nd on Tour, is determined to qualify for the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Woburn next week. The leading three players who are not already exempt will earn a place in the field for the fourth women’s Major of 2016 and Nocera added: “I have to play well this week. There is Monday qualifying but I’d rather be in Woburn than playing there so I’ll do my best. I’m not the only one looking for a spot so I have to play well this weekend.”
Burke, (above) who finished sixth last year at Dundonald to qualify for the Women’s Open at Turnberry, is also desperate to cement her place in next week’s championship.
She made a fast start with four birdies on the back nine and missed two short putts on the first and second before picking up shots at the sixth and eighth to end the day one off the pace.
The 28-year-old from Hertfordshire said: “I finished sixth here last year and got into Turnberry so hopefully I can do it again, because this course suits me. It would be nice to play close to home.”
While Morgan and Madsen have already qualified for next week’s championship, they are looking for their first and second titles on tour respectively. Morgan had a bogey free 68, while Madsen, winner of the recent Tipsport Golf Masters, had five birdies and one bogey on her card.
Australian Sarah Kemp and United States teenager Angel Yin are two off the pace and top Scots Pamela Pretswell, Vikki Laing and Sally Watson feature in the group three strokes back, while fellow Scots Catriona Matthew and Kelsey MacDonald sit on one under par.
Paige Spiranac of the United States was only one back after recording two birdies in her first five holes but took fright after seeing her name on the leader board in only her second LET event and ended the day just inside the projected cutline on four over par.
Round two begins at 7.30am followed by a cut to the leading 60 professionals and those tied for the final round.