Denmark’s 19-year-old rookie professional Emily Pedersen showed the way at the Hero Women’s Indian Open with an opening round of two-under-par 70 on the brand new ‘Black Knight’ Course at DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon.
At the end of a scorching day, the first year Ladies European Tour player made a two-foot putt for birdie on the par-four ninth hole in near darkness to take a one stroke lead over Thailand’s Sarapon Chamchoi and Italy’s Giulia Sergas.
“I’m very happy with finishing minus two. I had a rough start, starting with hitting one in the bushes and made a four by making a chip,” said Pedersen, who started on the 10th and played the more difficult back nine in level par 36 before picking up shots on the sixth and ninth holes.
“It started up and down, didn’t hit my irons well but my chipping and short game was good. On my back nine (the front) I only missed one fairway and had lots of birdie chances. The back nine is very tough. You have to place every shot on every hole and the greens are very tough as well. My putting and short game was good and that’s what kept me in the game.”
Sergas, a member of Europe’s victorious 2013 Solheim Cup team, managed to play the testing back nine in one under par with birdies on 16 and 18 against a dropped shot on 14. The 36-year-old from Trieste is enjoying her first visit to India and said: “When I saw the course in the practice round I knew it was going to be difficult so I started to play today and I was very protective and took everything slow.
“It wasn’t a tough day but it was a tough course. There was no wind so it could have been even tougher. No wind, no rain and a perfect day.
“The bounces around the green, I would call it sometimes unfair, because they ping 30, 40 yards sometimes, but I had three birdies on number 16, 18 and two. The key is the long game, but it really is putting too. Thank God it’s three days, as you can get mentally exhausted.”
Chamchoi, 23, from Bangkok, was also delighted with her 71, which contained four birdies and three bogeys. The third year Ladies Asian Golf Tour member, who is coached by European Tour player Thongchai Jaidee, tied for third place in the 2013 tournament at Delhi Golf Club.
In joint fourth place are Minea Blomqvist of Finland and Germany’s Sophia Popov, on level par 72. All of the top five players played on the late side of the draw. The five players who shot 73 in the morning were later joined in a tie for sixth by Denmark’s Nanna Koertstz Madsen and England’s Liz Young in a share of sixth on one over par.
Madsen is currently leading a close race for the Ladies European Tour’s Rookie of the Year title by 18,910 euros over Pedersen, who has her eyes on the prize. “If I could finish top ten on the order of merit and win rookie of the year, it’s very high odds and I have to play really good, but that would be fantastic. I’m already very happy with my position now and my rookie year and I’m just enjoying the rest of the year,” Pedersen said.
Meanwhile amateur Aditi Ashok is the best placed of the Indian players in a share of 19th on three over par. One group did not finish due to darkness and will resume their first round at 6.45am local time on Saturday.