French Solheim Cup player Gwladys Nocera grabbed the first round lead at the Xiamen International Ladies Open with an opening five under 67 at Orient Golf and Country Club in China.
Starting out in damp conditions, Nocera started out with a birdie on the par-4 10th hole and continued with three more birdies on the back nine on holes 13, 14 and 16.
She took her only bogey of the round on the par-4 second after missing the green and two putting, but from there she recovered with a pair of solid birdies on holes five and nine to finish.
“I played good. I didn’t hit the ball really well but I hit the fairways and greens and I putted really well. I was very offensive on the putting and it worked,” said Nocera, 40, from Moulins.
“It was tough. It was raining a lot and the ball wasn’t going anywhere and the greens were pretty slow for the morning. You have to adjust and deal with it. It was tough but I’m glad I shot a good score today.”
Thai pair Tanaporn Kongkiatkrai (pictured above) and Kusuma Meechai are in the clubhouse on four under par alongside South Korean Yeon Mi Choi (pictured below).
Kongkiatkrai three-putted on the par-4 first hole but hit five birdies including three in four holes from the ninth.
The fifth year professional from Bangkok said: “I hit 15 greens and made some very good up and downs. I holed a good birdie putt of 10 yards so my short game was pretty sharp.”
Playing with a niggling back injury, her target is to play level par for the tournament and she has low expectations. Fellow Thai player Meechai is also taking it day by day.
She hit 18 greens in regulation and made four birdies at the fifth, 10th, 14th and 18th in the first round, commenting: “The golf course is not easy. I hit my drives pretty well and long, so that made it much easier. I will try to hit the greens in regulation again tomorrow.”
The recent Tipsport Ladies Masters champion Hannah Burke from England, Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell and Denmark’s Daisy Nielsen are in a seven-way share for fifth place on three under with fellow Dane Nicole Broch Larsen, who won the Helsingborg Open last month, among those a shot further back.
Alexandra Vilatte from France, who tied for third place on the same course in Xiamen last year, was four under par after 17 holes before recording a double bogey on 18 and she is also among the 11 players on two under par alongside fellow LET Members Stacey Keating from Australia, Patricia Sanz Barrio of Spain and Liz Young from England.
Round one concluded in hot and sunny weather with temperatures in the high 20s Celsius and occasional showers expected for the next three rounds.