SANYA, China, Friday, 22nd October 2010 — Austrian Stefanie Michl shot a career best round of seven-under-par 65 to lead the inaugural Sanya Ladies Open in China on Friday.

The 24-year-old from Graz leads by three ahead of England’s Florentyna Parker, South African Lee-Anne-Pace and Cecilie Lundgreen of Norway, who are tied for second on 68.

Michl was in scintillating form on a scorching day at the Yalong Bay Golf Club in Sanya, on Hainan Island, in southern China.

She took advantage of the opening morning’s hot and benign conditions, with temperatures topping 31°C. “It was a calm day: really nice. Luckily I’m staying all winter in Orlando, Florida, which is very similar weather to here, so I like it” she said.

“I stayed out of trouble pretty well. I’ve been hitting my driver alright. My irons have been okay too but the best part of my game today was definitely my putting. I’ve been sinking a lot of short putts and medium-long putts and two or three longer putts I holed out. That helped to get my score low.”

The fourth season Ladies European Tour player, who is yet to win on Tour, attacked the back nine first, with birdies on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 17th holes. She picked up three straight shots coming in for seven birdies in all.

“I was actually surprised that I was playing that well today, because I didn’t expect anything. I was just working on my swing the last few weeks,” she said.

“The pro am was my first 18-hole round in four weeks so it took a while to get into my game and get into the rhythm and then I saw it was going quite well and I started to really go for the flags.”

Parker, Pace and Lundgreen all played in the breezier afternoon conditions and were delighted to be in contention.

Pace, a three-time winner this season who is chasing the Ladies European Tour’s 2010 Henderson Money List title, said: “It was pretty solid. I hit 14 greens and 13 fairways. My play was fantastic and the weather throughout was very nice. Four under is exactly what I expected to do today, so I’m very happy where I am.”

Parker, the ABN AMRO Ladies Open champion ranked 11th in Europe, is looking to finish in the top ten on the Henderson Money List this season and said: “I’m very pleased. I started birdie, birdie, so I can’t do better than that. I played nicely and had a few more chances but I’m happy. I’ve not played tournament golf for a couple of weeks so it was a nice opening round.”

Lundgreen came to Asia as a reserve and only secured her place in the tournament on Monday. A strong result could see her secure her Ladies European Tour card for 2011.

“I’m just thrilled,” said Lundgreen, whose career best finish was a tie for second at the 2001 South African Masters. “I’m normally a little bit ADD but I stayed disciplined for 18 holes.”

Yang Hong Mei from the nearby city of Haikou was the top Chinese player on the leader board at three-under-par. She tied for fifth with big-hitting Marjet van der Graaff from the Netherlands, Spain’s Tania Elosegui and Samantha Richdale of Canada.

Australian Karen Lunn and Finland’s Hanna-Leena Salonen were a shot further back in a share of ninth place with three other players.

The second round of the 54-hole tournament is scheduled to begin at 7.15am on Saturday, following which there will be a cut to the leading 60 professionals and ties.