(LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND – Thursday 30th July 2009) – Germany’s Sandra Gal posted a three-under-par score of 69 to take the first round lead at the RICOH Women’s British Open late on Thursday.

Gal, playing in the penultimate group, signed her scorecard with five birdies and two bogeys at around 9.10pm after a day of strong winds at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club in Lancashire.

The 24-year-old from Cologne finished one clear of South Korean Kim Song-Hee and American Angela Stanford, who had rounds of 70.

Gal is a second year player on the LPGA Tour, whose career best finish was fifth at this year’s LPGA Corning Classic.

The University of Florida marketing graduate said: “This ranks pretty high. They were pretty tough conditions out there, but I felt I played steady and kept my ball on the fairway most of the time.

“It’s the first round and you don’t win majors in the first round. It’s always nice to be on top but there is still a lot of golf to be played so I’m looking forward to it.”

Just six players scored par or better after the first round. Japan’s Yuko Mitsuka and South Korean Hee Young Park ended the day at one-under-par. Sweden’s Maria Hjorth saw a solid round with five birdies marred by a double-bogey at the last hole and finished on even par in sixth position.

Stanford, 31, a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour, set the target with two birdies, two bogeys and an eagle.

Having won the 2009 season opener, the SBS Open at Turtle Bay, she has struggled in recent week and so flew into the UK on Wednesday after a mini-break in Rome.

“The last couple of weeks have been kind of tough and I haven’t really played very good,” said the Texan, who was equal 52nd at last week’s Evian Masters in France. “My best finish at a British has been my very first time in ’02 (tied 13th).

“So I thought, you know, I’m going to take my mind off this, all of the negative feelings I have, and I’ve always wanted to see Rome and took a short vacation.

“I got here yesterday afternoon. It was the best weather that y’all have had all week and got a great practise round in, got some good positive vibes going, and was I think mentally in a better state than if I would have been here the whole week.”

Third year LPGA Tour player Kim, 21, is playing in her second British Open. She missed the cut at Sunningdale last year but has since changed her strategy. She said: “I hit the ball high, but today I hit it low and it worked.”

American Michelle Wie, 19, was one-over after three birdies and four bogeys. She tied for seventh place with three other players: South Korean Kyeong Bae, Christina Kim of the United States and Scotland’s Vikki Laing.

“You know, it was a tough day,” said Wie, who grew up playing in windy Hawaii. “I felt like I played fairly solid. I was proud of the fact that I was patient today. I felt like I just made a lot of good pars and I made some good birdies.

“There were a couple of errant shots out there. But there’s three more days of golf and it’s the British Open. I feel I can do it.”

Winds are forecast to be slightly lighter in Friday’s second round, in a south-south westerly direction.

At the end of her first round, Soo Yun Kang was disqualified for declining to sign her score card. Moments earlier she had carded a 12 on the 18th for a round of 87.