Joanna Klatten from France set the early target with a 69 (-3) on Friday

Joanna Klatten of France grabbed the first round lead at the Sanya Ladies Open in China on Friday with an opening-round three under par 69 at Yalong Bay Golf Club in Hainan.

The 27-year-old from Paris ended a hot and blustery first round one shot ahead of fellow Frenchwoman Celine Palomar and Numa Gulyanamitta of Thailand, while a further seven players shared fourth place a shot further back.

Klatten shot four birdies and a bogey on her tournament debut and said that her prodigious length off the tee was an advantage. “I don’t think I’ve ever driven the ball this well,” she said, adding that her long drives allowed her to hit low punch shots into the greens. Her longest drive, on the par-four 18th hole, which was playing down wind, measured 290 metres.

“I feel like I had a lot less work to do than my playing partners because they often had woods to hit into the par fours and I often had short irons so I’m very pleased with my round today.

“I’ve been getting too technical so now my coach wants me not to think about anything other than the target. I’m playing a little more quickly and it helps: you get in front of the ball and grip it and rip it.”

Celine Palomar in joint second

Another long hitting Frenchwoman, Jade Schaeffer, was four under par after 15 holes but a bogey, par, double-bogey finish saw her end her round at one under, alongside Germany’s Caroline Masson, Australian Sarah Kemp, Finland’s Minea Blomqvist, Becky Brewerton of Wales and English duo Rebecca Hudson and Felicity Johnson.

Current ISPS Handa order of merit leader Carlota Ciganda from Spain opened with a 72 but was pleased as she rated the conditions as the second toughest this season after the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Hoylake.

Ciganda said: “I think it was a good round for today because it was really tough out there. It was even tough on the greens because, although the balls were not moving, it was uncomfortable.”

Defending champion Frances Bondad was tied for 27th four shots off the lead but pleased with her opening 73, despite dropping two shots in the last three holes.

“I hit the ball really well and just the last few holes I got tired,” Bondad said. “Actually, I feel really good just being here with the memories from last year. It was really tough out there with the wind so I’m happy with the way I played. I wasn’t expecting anything great and I’d be happy with a top ten finish.”

Meanwhile South African Lee-Anne Pace, who won the inaugural tournament in 2010, withdrew shortly before her tee time through injury.

The leading three players are all in Sanya for the first time, looking for their maiden victories on the Ladies European Tour in the tri-sanctioned event between the LET, LAGT and CLPGA. Palomar is playing her first season as a full member, while Gulyanamitta is a rookie on the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and LPGA in America.

Palomar, 30, from Avranches in Normany, said that she was taking three or four extra clubs but still managed to hit all the fairways, mixing seven birdies with five bogeys.

Numa Gulyanamitta of Thailand

“It was really difficult conditions and I thought we were going to stop because the ball was almost moving on the greens,” she said. “I was really happy with my ball striking today. The wind made me focus a lot.”

Gulyanamitta, 23, from Rayong, was steadier with five birdies and three bogeys. She said: “It was really windy for a couple of holes but we got lucky because it was down wind on the holes that were long. The second shot, you had to be careful to get the correct yardage.”