Lotta Wahlin shot a six under par 66 at Emirates Golf Club on Wednesday to take a one stroke lead after the opening round of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
The 28-year-old Swede, who celebrated her birthday on Tuesday, fired seven birdies and one bogey on the Majlis course, with her father, Mats on the bag.
She said that she felt ‘just so happy’ to have her best round since 2008, the year she won two tournaments on the Ladies European Tour.
That was before a skin cancer scare exactly two years ago at the end of 2009. Wahlin was playing in Dubai that year when she received a telephone call from her doctor on her birthday, informing her that she had a malignant birth mark on her collar bone area.
She had it removed and since then, has been through a rough spell, playing in only two tournaments on the LET in 2010 and struggling to recover her previous form in this, her first full year back on Tour.
Her best finish from 14 appearances on the LET this year was a tie for 13th in the recent Sanya Ladies Open in China.
After her round, Wahlin said: “I finally had a good round, finally able to make all the putts. I’m just so happy.”
Due to her sensitive skin, Wahlin normally avoids playing in the sunniest locations on tour, such as Australia and Portugal, but felt no hesitation about returning to Dubai. She just wants to play golf.
“I thought, is it really worth to be out on the golf course in the sunny countries or is it better that I just quit playing golf and so something else, but I still have to live my life and golf is my life, or a big part of my life,” she said.
At the same time, she felt that she had gained a sense of perspective. “You know, golf is not so important anymore. If I have a bad round, I’m still disappointed, but it’s not like the end of the world like it used to be.”
Becky Brewerton of Wales was a stroke back on 67 after carding six birdies and one bogey. The Welsh 29-year-old said that she had few expectations after suffering from a bout of gastroenteritis in India last week and spent Monday in bed.
She said that she was surprised how well she played. “I think it was just a different attitude. Last week I think I probably over prepared, practiced too much, got a bit tired and then actually got sick at the end of the week, whereas actually this week I did nothing since I wasn’t feeling too well and that kind of relaxed me,” adding: “I feel fine, but still not 100 per cent.”
Linda Wessberg of Sweden was in the chasing pack along with Minea Blomqvist, Julieta Granada and Stacy Lee Bregman, all on 68.
Jaclyn Sweeney, Lee-Anne Pace Elizabeth Bennett, Christel Boeljon, Tandi Cuningham, Julie Maisongrosse, Diana Luna, Maria Verchenova and Beth Allen were all on 69.
England’s Melissa Reid carded a level-par 72 to end two shots behind US teenage sensation Alexis Thompson, while American Michelle Wie, who is the highest ranked player in the field at 17th in the world, had a one over par 73 after what she called a ‘frustrating’ day at work.
“I just felt like it was one of those days where nothing really went in and nothing really went my way,” said Wie.
Recent winner Caroline Hedwall and Laura Davies both stumbled to rounds of 75.
Scores at the end of round 1:
66 – Lotta Wahlin (SWE)
67 – Becky Brewerton (WAL)
68 – Minea Blomqvist (FIN), Julieta Granada (PAR), Stacy Lee Bregman (SA), Linda Wessberg (SWE)
69 – Jaclyn Sweeney (USA), Lee-Anne Pace (SA), Elizabeth Bennett (ENG), Christel Boeljon (NL), Tandi Cuningham (SA), Julie Maisongrosse (FRA), Diana Luna (ITA), Maria Verchenova (RUS), Beth Allen (USA)
70 – Liebelei Elena Lawrence (LU), Margherita Rigon (ITA), Becky Morgan (WAL), Sophie Giquel-Bettan (FRA), Stacey Keating (AUS), Alexis Thompson (USA), Alison Walshe (USA), Karen Lunn (AUS), Charlie Douglass (ENG), Elisabeth Esterl (GER), Cassandra Kirkland (FRA), Caroline Afonso (FRA), Caroline Westrup (SWE)
71 – Lynnette Brooky (NZ), Carlota Ciganda (ESP), Kaisa Ruuttila (FIN), Louise Larsson (SWE), Sara Brown (USA), Sophie Gustafson (SWE), Rachel Jennings (ENG)
72 – Lydia Hall (WAL), Klara Spilkova (CZE), Zuzana Kamasova (SVK), Malene Jorgensen (DEN), Louise Stahle (SWE), Georgina Simpson (ENG), Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA), Nikki Garrett (AUS), Jenni Kuosa (FIN), Melodie Bourdy (FRA), Kylie Walker (SCO), Vikki Laing (SCO), Melissa Reid (ENG), Pernilla Lindberg (SWE), Florentyna Parker (ENG), Ursula Wikstrom (FIN), Sophie Sandolo (ITA)
73 – Lynn Kenny (SCO), Hannah Jun (USA), Trish Johnson (ENG), Maria Hernandez (ESP), Gwladys Nocera (FRA), Rebecca Codd (IRE), Holly Aitchison (ENG), Adriana Zwanck (ESP), Mikaela Parmlid (SWE), Sana Tufail (Am) (ENG), Kim Welch (USA), Christina Kim (USA), Michelle Wie (USA), Tania Elosegui (ESP), Carin Koch (SWE), Henrietta Zuel (ENG), Carmen Alonso (ESP)
74 – Ana Larraneta (ESP), Stefania Croce (ITA), Rebecca Flood (AUS), Nontaya Srisawang (THA), Clare Queen (SCO), Jeehae Lee (KOR), Line Vedel (DEN), Titiya Plucksataporn (THA), Frances Bondad (AUS), Jade Schaeffer (FRA), Lorie Kane (CAN), Veronica Zorzi (ITA), Dewi Claire Schreefel (NL)
75 – Giulia Sergas (ITA), Anja Monke (GER), Sophie Walker (ENG), Ashleigh Simon (SA), Lucie Andre (FRA), Caroline Hedwall (SWE), Laura Davies (ENG), Anna Nordqvist (SWE), Nicole Gergely (AUT)
76 – Morgana Robbertze (SA), Rebecca Hudson (ENG), Kristie Smith (AUS), Marianne Skarpnord (NOR)
77 – Lindsay Brown (Am) (ENG), Caroline Rominger (SWI), Virginie Lagoutte-Clement (FRA), Joanna Klatten (FRA), Felicity Johnson (ENG), Martina Eberl-Ellis (GER), Rachel Bell (ENG)
78 – Sandra Gal (GER), Laurette Maritz (SA)
79 – Danielle Montgomery (ENG), Lisa Holm Sorensen (DEN)
80 – Emma Cabrera-Bello (ESP), Maha Haddioui (MOR)