|Nikki Campbell – seven-under on her front nine|
Yet Kemp, who finished 28th on the LET’s New Star Money List, was a runner up in the Catalonia Ladies Masters in Spain in 2006 and has won multiple Australian titles. She is one of a crop of young Australians capable of winning their national title this week and has often been compared to Webb, the number one ranked Australian player.
“It’s flattering that people think that but it doesn’t put any extra pressure on me,” said Kemp, who admitted that she had the opportunity to play Royal Sydney in a Pro Am last week and who lives four hours drive north of the golf course. “My goal is to be in the last group because I will be in contention and there are heaps of people watching you – that’s fun. If I could do that I would be near the leaders,” she added.
“Coming second and third last year was nice but I’d like to win a tournament on the European Tour this year.”
Campbell, 26, who was playing two matches behind Kemp, is another hot Australian talent but she is also relatively unknown as she plays on the on the LPGA of Japan, where she claimed her first international victory last year.
She was at seven-under-par after nine holes, having played her outward nine, the course’s back nine, in just 29 strokes. However she dropped shots at the par-three third and the par-four 18th hole on her back nine to slip one shot behind Kemp. She three putted at the third and failed to get up and down at the 18th.
Her outward nine equalled the Ladies European Tour’s record for the lowest nine holes, which has been recorded by 16 other players over the last 19 years. Her front nine included five birdies and an eagle three at the 439-metre par-five 16th hole where she hit her five-wood to six metres and rolled in the putt.
Commenting on her outward nine, Campbell admitted: “It was a dream nine holes where the putts went in and it all seemed to fall into place. On the second nine I was a little bit nervous because you don’t shoot seven under for nine holes every day.
“I had a lot of birdie chances going home but the putts just didn’t go in. It was disappointing but on a course like this things like that are going to happen.”
Webb, the World No.3, had a bogey, two birdies and two eagles – at the second and 16th holes – for her 67, which was the best score of the afternoon.
She said: “When you don’t play a tournament for a couple of months you wonder how it will go and this morning I was wondering if I was ready for this. The bomb that I made on the second hole settled me down and on the last few holes I started to swing it more freely.”
Laura Davies, the defending champion, began strongly with birdies on holes one, two and seven, but was unable to carry the momentum through the rest of her round. She carded four bogeys – including a six on the par-five 16th – and signed for a 73. She ended the day seven shots behind the leader.
Natalie Gulbis of the United States, playing on an invitation, began her campaign with a 74 to sit eight strokes off the pace after 18 holes. She revealed that she was extremely disappointed and said: “I’ve got plenty of work ahead of me. To watch those players shoot six-under-par and to shoot over par is not a good start.”