South African Lee-Anne Pace made nine birdies and two bogeys in an opening round of seven-under-par 65 to grab a one stroke lead at the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters, the Ladies European Tour’s showcase event at Golf Club Hubbelrath in Düsseldorf, Germany.
The 35-year-old from Paarl began with a bogey on the first but picked up five birdies on the front nine, with four in a row from the fifth in hot weather. She added another bogey on the 10th but quickly fired four more birdies, including on the 17th and 18th holes.
“I had an unlucky break on my first hole. I don’t know what it hit but it jumped a fairway, which was kind of unfortunate. After that, not a lot of mistakes. I hit a lot of fairways and greens and made quite a few putts so I’m happy with it,” said the winner of nine LET titles.
“It’s the kind of course where you need to shape it off the tee. The greens do hold quite easily so even with long irons or hybrids they do stop.
“I just got new irons, the new PING blade irons and I absolutely love them, so I feel really comfortable. I’m playing nicely. My swing is good and I feel like I can shape it both ways.”
Pace is a stroke ahead of Katie Burnett from the United States, who made seven birdies and one bogey in a 66 under brilliant blue skies early in the day.
The 26-year-old from Georgia went out in two-under but picked up four shots on the back nine. She said: “I hit a lot of greens. The greens are soft so if you’re hitting your irons well you can attack the flags. I hit quite a few within a couple of feet. It’s a great golf course. The greens are good, fairways are good. The greens are soft, which is nice because you don’t get the run-out that you might on a firmer course.”
The 2014 ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters champion In-Kyung Kim from South Korea occupies solo third spot. Also making her first visit to Germany, she is soaking up a new culture.
“I’m quite surprised how Sandra (Gal) is normal (here). Sandra is quite tall in the States but everyone is tall here. It’s fun. I’d love to go and check out the city. The language is so different. I’ve never heard German before so it’s all sound to me.”
Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell and Amelia Lewis of the United States share fourth spot on four-under-par 68. Pretswell enjoyed her round and said: “It was nice to be back out there after a long break. I’ve been busy working on a few things and having some time off so it feels like the first day of school. I’ve been working on my putting and I’ve got a new putter and driver so it was nice to be out there today and my hard work paid off.”
Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord, Sweden’s Camilla Lennarth, American rookie professional Angel Yin and England’s Jessica Bradley share sixth place on three-under.
The defending champion Beth Allen, who won the title last year at Buckinghamshire Golf Club in England, is in a tie for 10th on two under alongside the leading German players Isi Gabsa and Sandra Gal, English pair Florentyna Parker and Georgia Hall, Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall and Mireia Prat from Spain.
Allen said: “I hit it really well and my putting was not great but I’m playing well enough so hope to have a good day tomorrow. I’m feeling pretty confident, so that’s good. The greens are really quick, even quicker than at Woburn, so it’s been a while since I’ve played fast greens and it’s taking a bit of getting used to. You really have to think you’re way around. It’s not a grip and rip sort of course.”
Second round play on Friday begins at 7.40am local time and there will be a cut to the leading 65 players and ties at halfway.