England’s Florentyna Parker opened with a five under par 67 on the Blue Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in the Moroccan capital of Rabat on Thursday to equal the women’s tournament course record in the Lalla Meryem Cup.
Seven birdies against two bogeys saw Parker move a stroke ahead of compatriot Liz Young, Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord and Finland’s Oona Vartiainen.
The shaft of Parker’s driver broke in half when it was accidentally caught under a rope as she took a buggy ride to the course to play in the Pro-Am on Wednesday and she was thrilled when a new shaft arrived just before her afternoon tee time allowing her to use the club.
“The tour van only had extra stiff shafts and I play regular,” explained the two-time LET tournament winner from Royal Birkdale, whose most recent victory was the Italian Open in 2014. “I got someone else’s shaft but it wasn’t the right one and then this morning, luckily I had one sent from home.”
Parker explained how having the correct shaft is paramount for a professional golfer. “You either hit the fairway or you don’t, so that’s the big difference. I would have had no chance otherwise.”
Her best friend on Tour, Young (above), also played without high expectations as she is four months pregnant. After signing for a flawless 68, containing four birdies, Young said: “I’m just taking it one shot at a time and hopefully I can get the energy to play well again tomorrow. I’m hoping to play for as long as I can until it’s too much.”
The long-hitter from Brokenhurst Manor in the New Forest continued: “My short game really saved me today. I had 22 putts and my long game wasn’t great but I kept it in play. Out here keeping it on the fairways is crucial because this rough is so thick.”
While both Englishwomen and Vartiainen played in the afternoon sunshine, Skarpnord (below) was among the early starters who contended with heavy downpours and the three-time LET winner was delighted with her bogey-free round.
She said: “It was a bit cold and a bit wet this morning but we got off to a good start with a couple of birdies on the front nine and kept the momentum and made a couple on the back nine so it was a good morning for me.
“I hit every fairway until 16. On 16 and 18 I did not manage to get the ball to the green with the second shot, so the driving is so important on this course because this rough is not very nice.”
While the women on the Ladies European Tour play on the Blue Course, the male golfers from the European Tour are playing the Trophée Hassan II on the Red Course at the same venue this week, where the leading score of four under par 68 is shared by three players: Frenchman Thomas Linard, Italian Francesco Laporta and Australian Jason Scrivener.
Both courses have been set up the same with the rough at a height of 85 mm and the greens at 11 feet on the stimpmeter, albeit the greens are running marginally faster for the women on the Blue course. Set up at 6846 yards, the Red course is 496 yards longer than the Blue, taking into account the difference in driving distance.