Nicholson – first round leader on five-under

Three players share a tie for third place on three-under-par. Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson, who won last week’s De Vere Ladies Scottish Open and who is the defending champion carded a faultless 69 to sit alongside fellow Swede Elin Ohlsson and England’s Laura Davies, whose round included an eagle at the par-five tenth and a triple bogey at the par-four 13th.

Gustafson said: “I didn’t think it played that easy today with the wind so I’m very happy with my three-under.

”I had a few more chances but I never assume to make everything so I’m still happy.

”So far so good. I don’t think I started off with three-under last year so I’m already ahead of last year.”

Financial restrictions have limited Nicholson to just six appearances on the Ladies European Tour this season, having qualified for her card at the end of 2006. Her best finish was a tie for 28th place at the Northern Ireland Ladies Open in June.

The Kiwi was delighted with her opening round score, and admitted she had no idea she was performing so well until after her round had finished.

“I didn’t really notice that I shot five-under on the back nine so I was surprised when I looked at my card,” she said. “I just let it happen, really.

“I’ve played pretty good and I hit the ball well off the tee, which you kind of have to do round here.”

Nicholson splits her time between the Swedish-based Telia Tour and the Ladies European Tour and said that her decision to play in Austria was influenced by her desire to earn full playing rights next season.

“I didn’t have enough money to come over for the whole year and get my full card,” said Nicholson, who spends a lot of time in Birmingham with her relatives between tournaments.

“I came here (Europe) for three months to warm up for Q-School.

“I would say that I am just trying to get experience this year. I was a bit disappointed that I missed out on my full card, but it has definitely made me work a lot harder this year and work on my game.”

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