29 September 2011, Paris, France: Cassandra Kirkland claimed the first round lead at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on Thursday with a superb round of eight under par 64 in ideal conditions.

The 26 year-old Parisian moved one stroke clear of fellow Frenchwoman Virginie Lagoutte-Clement and Finland’s Kaisa Ruuttila, with nine birdies and one bogey on a warm afternoon at Paris International, while Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord ended the day a shot further behind.

Kirkland, from nearby Saint Nom la Bretèche, burst out of the blocks with three opening birdies and took a single bogey at the sixth. Three more birdies from the seventh followed, with another trio on the way in.

She knows the course well from playing the yearly ‘Pro Am of Paris’ at the same venue and finished tied for 16th at last year’s Open de France, but a 64 lowered her career best round by two shots.

“I feel really happy. I didn’t really have many expectations. I know I played well last year and I’ve been playing really well lately. I was just hoping I could shoot under par and I shot quite low so that’s good,” said the fifth year Ladies European Tour professional.

Cassandra lips out for eagle on hole 18

After a season-best tie for ninth place at the Open de Espana a fortnight ago, she is in a rich vein of form but will have to maintain the low scoring if she is to hold off Lagoutte-Clement.

The 32-year-old from Montelimar will be hungry for her fourth LET victory after three top-five finishes in 2011.

She said: “I’m so happy. I played not very good on the back nine, my first nine, it was very tricky and I tried to play safely and make pars. I played a birdie on hole 17 and 18 and after, it’s more easy to play on the first nine. I’m so happy because my putting was very good today and I played well.”

Skarpnord had an outward 34 but burst into action after the turn with four birdies on the way in.

“It’s the best round I’ve played this year so I’m pretty happy about the score,” said the 25 year-old, who has endured something of a difficult year after starting the season with a shoulder injury.  

After two wins on Tour in 2009 in Switzerland and Italy, she is now down to 78th on the Henderson Money List.

“I’ve been playing pretty good lately but I haven’t been making any putts so I’m glad it finally came,” Skarpnord said.  

She is one clear of Spain’s Tania Elosegui, Australian Stacey Keating and England’s Sophie Walker, while the 2010 event champion, Trish Johnson of England, is one of five players a stroke back on four under par.

“You couldn’t play in any better conditions than that, so the course is playing short,” Johnson said. “I putted pretty well so four under is pretty much par for the course.”

The three time event winner added: “I like this golf course, obviously. Clearly from last year I like it and they’ve shortened it, which is a shame, but it’s the same for everybody. It’s going to take a lot to win this week. I think it’s going to be up near 20 under so I’m going to have to start hitting the ball better than I did today.”

Virginie Lagoutte-Clement tees off on the 9th

Johnson was an on-course television commentator for Sky Sports at The Solheim Cup in Ireland last week and she revealed: “After last week, not playing, but being on the other side of the camera, which was incredibly hard work, it made me quite appreciate playing.”

The two members of last week’s winning European Solheim Cup Team in the field, Laura Davies and Caroline Hedwall, were both round in three under par.  

Davies initially struggled with her putting but rallied for an eagle, birdie finish, while Hedwall was steady with three birdies overall.

Lacoste Ladies Open de France

Paris International Golf Club

29 Spetember – 2 October

Scores at the end of round one:

64 – Cassandra Kirkland (FRA)

65 – Virginie Lagoutte-Clement (FRA), Kaisa Ruuttila (FIN)

66 – Marianne Skarpnord (NOR)

67 – Tania Elosegui (ESP), Stacey Keating (AUS), Sophie Walker (ENG)

68 – Trish Johnson (ENG), Felicity Johnson (ENG), Stefanie Michl (AUT), Minea Blomqvist (FIN), Kyra van Leeuwen (NL)

69 – Kym Larratt (ENG), Liebelei Elena Lawrence (LU), Lucie Andre (FRA), Laura Davies (ENG), Caroline Hedwall (SWE), Diana Luna (ITA), Celine Boutier (Am) (FRA), Caroline Rominger (SWI), Lee-Anne Pace (SA), Anja Monke (GER)

70 – Julie Maisongrosse (FRA), Marion Ricordeau (FRA), Becky Brewerton (WAL), Caroline Afonso (FRA), Giulia Sergas (ITA), Mikaela Parmlid (SWE), Melodie Bourdy (FRA), Tandi Cuningham (SA), Jade Schaeffer (FRA), Zuzana Kamasova (SVK), Nikki Garrett (AUS), Vikki Laing (SCO), Belen Mozo (ESP), Ursula Wikstrom (FIN), Carmen Alonso (ESP)

71 – Perrine Delacour (Am) (FRA), Gwladys Nocera (FRA), Florentyna Parker (ENG), Julie Tvede (DEN), Pernilla Lindberg (SWE), Rachel Bell (ENG), Connie Chen (SA), Kiran Matharu (ENG), Christina Kim (USA), Sophie Sandolo (ITA), Line Vedel (DEN)

72 – Elizabeth Bennett (ENG), Laura Cabanillas (ESP), Marina Arruti (ESP), Rebecca Codd (IRE), Karen Lunn (AUS), Joanna Klatten (FRA), Becky Morgan (WAL), Kim Welch (USA), Nicole Gergely (AUT), Linda Wessberg (SWE), Sophie Giquel-Bettan (FRA), Louise Stahle (SWE), Stacy Lee Bregman (SA), Jaclyn Sweeney (USA), Jenni Kuosa (FIN), Benedicte Toumpsin (BEL)

73 – Marjet van der Graaff (NL), Clare Queen (SCO), Laurette Maritz (SA), Stefania Croce (ITA), Veronica Zorzi (ITA), Titiya Plucksataporn (THA), Elena Giraud (FRA), Alison Walshe (USA)

74 – Bree Arthur (AUS), Louise Larsson (SWE), Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA), Sara Brown (USA), Camille Fallay (FRA), Sahra Hassan (WAL), Julie Greciet (FRA), Margherita Rigon (ITA), Rebecca Hudson (ENG), Henrietta Zuel (ENG), Nontaya Srisawang (THA), Tara Davies (WAL)

75 – Malene Jorgensen (DEN), Lynnette Brooky (NZ), Beth Allen (USA), Rachel Jennings (ENG), Lynn Kenny (SCO), Ana Larraneta (ESP), Holly Aitchison (ENG), Valentine Derrey (FRA)

76 – Lydia Hall (WAL), Martina Gillen (IRE), Hannah Jun (USA)

77 – Klara Spilkova (CZE), Adriana Zwanck (ESP), Barbara Genuini (FRA), Lotta Wahlin (SWE), Morgana Robbertze (SA), Maha Haddioui (MOR)

78 – Riikka Hakkarainen (FIN)

79 – Garrett Phillips (USA), Christine Hallstrom (SWE), Kylie Walker (SCO), Ludivine Kreutz (FRA)

81 – Charlie Douglass (ENG)

RTD – Rebecca Flood (AUS)