A sensational front nine of seven-under 29 provided the foundation for a seven-under 65 by Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord who has a two-shot lead after the first round of the Pegasus New Zealand Women’s Open at Pegasus Town, near Christchurch, today.

The 24-year-old Skarpnord started spectacularly with eight successive threes, one of which was an eagle at the par-5 446m fifth hole. She was seven-under after seven and missed a 15-foot putt for birdie at the ninth that would have given her a record 28 for nine holes in a Ladies European Tour (LET) event.

A stiff north-easterly wind presented Skarpnord with a harder challenge on the more testing back nine and she put the 29 to the back of her mind and concentrated on every shot, playing the back nine in par 36 with her only bogey at the 12th which was offset by a birdie at the 15th.

Skarpnord is two shots to the good of American Diana D’Alessio, who birdied her last two holes to take second outright, a shot ahead of South African, Ashleigh Simon, Korean An.Na Oh, and West Australian Kristie Smith, who shot her 68 when the wind blew from the north-west in the morning.

On three-under 69 and tied for sixth were Dutchwoman Dewi-Claire Schreefel, multiple international winner, Laura Davies (England) and Australian Sarah Kemp, who tied for second last year.

The leading New Zealand trio after rounds of one-under 71 were Wellington professional, Sarah Nicholson, and amateurs, Zoe Brake (Whakatane) and 12-year-old Lydia Ko (Pupuke).

Skarpnord, in her seventh year as a professional after an amateur career which was highlighted by her victory in the 2003 British Girls Championship and being a member of the winning European Junior Solheim Cup the same year, had her best year on the LET in 2009 when she won twice, in Switzerland and Italy and had seven other top-10 finishes.

She was laidback after her 65, saying that she holed a “couple of long putts, felt comfortable throughout and had a lot of fun with her new caddie’’.

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