England’s Trish Johnson fired a three-under par 69 at Archerfield Links in East Lothian to take a one stroke lead over Christel Boeljon and Stacy Lee Bregman at the Aberdeen Ladies Scottish Open, presented by EventScotland.
Johnson mixed seven birdies with four bogeys on a fine first day at the 54-hole tournament. Boeljon, from the Netherlands, shot a 70 with four birdies and two bogeys on the score card and shares second with South Africa’s Bregman, who had three birdies and just one dropped shot at the fourth hole.
Johnson was partnering former footballer and BBC television pundit Alan Hansen in the Pro Am format and the pair led by one stroke in the better-ball competition, combining for a total of 61, 11-under-par.
There is no cut for the 60 professionals in the field and the leading 15 amateur competitors will play the final 18 holes on Friday alongside the professionals.
Johnson, who won her 19th victory at last month’s Tenerife Ladies Open, ended the day in contention for the €30,000 first prize and her 20th career title.
“It wasn’t great today; it wasn’t how I would like to strike the ball, certainly, but I think when you’re patient as well and the shots are okay, they’re alright, then the odd good one comes along and I’m putting well, so you’re converting those and it makes a big difference,” said 44-year-old Johnson.
“There are a couple of things I’ve got to work on. I don’t feel like I can transfer my weight onto my left side. At impact, hopefully I can do a little bit of work on that, striking it how I was a couple of weeks ago, because that was good fun.”
Italians Stefania Croce and Anna Rossi tied for fourth with Australian Nikki Garrett, while Frenchwoman Virginie-Lagoutte Clement and South Korean Jeehae Lee were a stroke back in a share of seventh.
The leading Scots challenge came from Kylie Walker, Mhairi McKay, Lynn Kenny and Krystle Caithness, who all shot 73 to share ninth place with Frenchwoman Caroline Afonso.
Kenny has an attachment to Archerfield Links but local knowledge didn’t help her challenge as she added a double bogey on the fifth to three bogeys and four birdies. The 30-year-old from Stirling said: “It was a bit frustrating to be honest. I didn’t hit the ball that great but I managed to get it round.”
Caithness was one under at the turn but came back in two-over par, dropping three shots over the last five holes. The 21-year-old from Cupar said: “I’m as bit gutted with the way I finished. I was two under after 11 and then messed it up: bogey, double bogey, bogey, I think, and then birdied the last. I was in good positions and I messed up.”
Walker, 23, from Glasgow, was out in 36 and back in 37. The Ladies European Tour rookie has had a nervy start to the season but feels that she just needs one solid week to keep her Tour card.
McKay, who plies her trade mainly on the US Tour, was pleased with her first competitive round since tying for 34th at the US Women’s Open last month and said: “It was very encouraging. I’ve had a bit of time off and when you don’t have a card in your hand for a while it’s nice to get out there again.”