Ireland’s Hazel Kavanagh opened with a four under par 68 to lead a Ladies European Tour event outright for the first time in her career at the ABN AMRO Ladies Open in the Netherlands on Friday.

The 37-year-old Dubliner finished one clear of Laura Davies, Sophie Sandolo and the 2005 champion Virginie Lagoutte-Clement after a hot and sunny day at Golfclub Broekpolder in Rotterdam.

The 68 was a ladies’ professional course record, since the club has never before staged the tournament. While the majority of the field struggled to get to grips with the club’s tricky tree-lined layout, Kavanagh plotted her way around to record her lowest round of the year.

Starting from the 10th, she had four birdies over the back nine, then countered two bogeys at the second and fourth holes with a further two birdies at the third and the seventh.

“Definitely keeping it on the fairway was important and my putting was excellent,” said Kavanagh, whose share of third place at last year’s UNIQA Ladies Golf Open in Austria equalled the best ever performance by an Irishwoman on the Ladies European Tour. “The weather today was really nice, especially after last week when the weather was horrendous. I just wasn’t expecting anything and played well.”

Now in her ninth season on Tour, she revealed that last season’s dramatic improvement, when she finished 45th on the Henderson Money List, was thanks to a more relaxed attitude.

“I’m enjoying it a lot more, enjoying the travel, just trying to play and seeing what happens at the end rather than analysing and taking stats and working on things that I didn’t need to work on. I’m basically trying to have as many birdies as I can in a round.”

To blend in with the locals, she has been doing some sight-seeing on a bicycle this week. She added: “We played an early practise round every day and then in the afternoon we went off because the people we are staying with have bicycles so we took them out for a tour.”

Davies, targeting a 75th career title, carded a 69 earlier in the morning and said: “It was very steady. I made five birdies and two bogeys so you’re going to make bogeys out here because the course is pretty tough. You have some easy holes and then some hard holes so it’s a very good mixture and it’s in great shape. I think three under is a pretty decent start looking at the rest of the scores.”

Sandolo, who also shot 69, is playing on an invitation after losing her playing card last year following tendonitis in her shoulders and a back injury.

“I didn’t think I was going to play golf again. All this is really good to me. Right now I don’t have a card but I might get it back because I need six events and then I’ll come back on the ranking. I’m pretty happy about everything that is happening right now,” Sandolo said.

Trish Johnson, who has also suffered with tendonitis, in her elbows, shot 70 and shared fifth place with four players.

They included the defending champion Tania Elosegui and last week’s Allianz Ladies Slovak Open winner Maria Hernandez, both from Spain, along with the French duo of Camille Fallay and Melodie Bourdy.

The leading local player was amateur Caroline Karsten, 19, in a share of 38th at one over par, while three other Dutch players, including Marjet van der Graaff, were at two over.