Australia’s Anne-Marie Knight

Maritz’s second of her 10 career victories, (which includes three on the LET), was in Portugal 18 years ago and came just two week’s after her first ever win at the Marbella Ladies Open, which was her first LET event.

She says she can remember little of the course on the coast of Estoril, apart from the last few holes. “I think I started the last round five shots behind and when I came to the 17th the scoreboard was wrong and it read that I was two off the lead so I didn’t think much of it. I parred the 17th and birdied the last and then everyone went berserk. It turned out I had won by two! It was a nice way to start on the Tour,” she said.

Knight, from Adelaide, carded eight birdies and three bogeys today after an early tee-time and she took advantage of the calmer morning conditions after the northerly gale-force winds which wreaked havoc at the start of the week.

“It was nothing compared to what it has been like for the last couple of days,” said Knight, whose only LET victory to date was at the 1999 Stilwerk Ladies German Open.

“The greens are rolling well and the wind is favourable on the last few holes. I played pretty solid. I didn’t get too far ahead of myself in terms of my thinking. The last two par fives are pretty generous so you can get a good score going if you take advantage of those two holes. I’m really pleased as I hit them close all day.”

Knight began the day with a bogey at the first, but picked up a shot at the fourth and then fired off three more birdies in a row from the seventh to make the turn in three-under-par 33. Another bogey at the tenth was followed by two birdies at 11 and 12. She then went birdie, bogey, birdie from the 15th hole to come home in two-under-par 34.

The Australian said: “I didn’t really have any expectations to tell you the truth, particularly with the weather conditions as they were at the beginning of the week. I said let’s just go out there and have some fun. I had been shooting pretty steady rounds but nothing really sensational and it’s nice to be able to get everything together in one round.”

England’s Trish Johnson was just two shots off the pace on three-under-par after the first day with five other players including the 2005 Wales Ladies Champion of Europe Kirsty Taylor and the current European number one Gwladys Nocera from France.

Johnson admitted that she was disappointed after a great start: “I was four-under after 14 holes and then I made a silly mistake at the 15th where I missed a putt from 12 inches,” she said. “I felt I could have played much better today. I’m just feeling pretty frustrated.”

Taylor added: “I was disappointed when I woke up because it wasn’t windy. I really wanted the wind and I’m pleased now that the wind’s here. I play better in the wind and I know that a lot of girls struggle. I like it, hence my good rounds last year at Machynys,” (The site of Taylor’s first victory in Wales).

“I was four under on the back nine and I was unlucky on 17, I hit a good shot in but was just through the back. It ran under a bush and I managed to shut my eyes and hit it and got up and down for birdie so I was very happy.

“I’m playing pretty well. I’ve changed my putter this week. I’ve gone back to an old PING Derby putter and chopped it down a couple of inches so it’s very nice. The putting’s been a lot better and I don’t think my caddie is as worried when I have a three foot putt now.”

Spanish rookie Beatriz Recari tied for fourth place with Johnson, Taylor and Nocera as well as Finland’s Pia Koivuranta and Australian rookie Sarah Kemp.

Sweden’s Helena Alterby and Spaniard Maria Beautell rounded out the top ten places and the pair tied on two-under-par 70.

The defending champion Cecilia Ekelundh began her campaign with a four over par 76 to trail the lead by nine shots. But after starting with a 77 last year in the Algarve when she followed up with rounds of 66 and 67 to win by three, her title hopes for the week were still very much alive.