|Finland’s Ursula Wikstrom|
(Thursday 17th September 2009) – Finland’s Ursula Wikstrom holds a slim one stroke lead after the opening round of the Randstad Open de France Dames at Le Golf D’Arras.
Wikstrom, whose best finish in six years on tour was second at the 2008 Finnair Masters in her native Finland, rattled off five birdies and one bogey for a four-under-par 68.
With the help of her father, Matti Tuutti, on caddie duties and her two year old son Erni, visiting outside the ropes, the 29-year-old from Espoo finished one clear of England’s Samantha Head and Anna Tybring from Sweden.
“I have been struggling with my putting a lot lately and now finally it is working,” said Wikstrom. “I was getting the ball on the line and making a few putts.”
It is a coincidence that Wikstrom’s son, whose photo is printed onto her ball marker, is on site this week. Her mother loves the town of Arras and brought Erni on tour for the first time this year.
Head – who won her last Ladies European Tour title in 2001 – fired six birdies and three bogeys for a three-under-par 69.
“The second hole, the fourth, every birdie putt I had was a really slopey one except for nine,” said the 36-year-old from Ascot.
She is playing in her seventh tournament at Le Golf D’Arras, which is hosting the Open de France for the 10th successive year and the last time before it moves to Paris.
“It’s different every year. This year it favours me a little bit because there’s run on the ball and the greens are stopping and that’s what I need.”
Tybring, 30, birdied the third and fifth holes going out with a further birdie at the 18th. “I’m very happy because I played very solid. I hit 16 greens and 31 putts so it was really good,” she said.
Her career best finish was a tie for sixth at the Norwegian SAS Ladies Masters in 2007. “I just went out there and looked for a good target and hit it instead of thinking too much.”
Defending champion Anja Monke, who started at the 10th, eagled the 13th and then birdied the 14th, which lifted her into a tie at the top of the leader board early on, but she played the front nine in one-over 37, finishing at two-under in a share of fourth with eight other players.
England’s Laura Davies – who was second to Linda Wessberg in Austria last week after a two-hole, sudden death playoff – also finished on 70, along with her compatriot Felicity Johnson, Ireland’s Tara Delaney and Hazel Kavanagh, who was third last week in Austria, Italian Stefania Croce, Spain’s Ana Larraneta, South Korean rookie Jessica Ji and the Open de Espana champion Becky Brewerton from Wales.
Brewerton said: “It was really good because I’ve never done very well here and it’s a bit of a mental challenge. I had a good start; birdied four, five and six. From then on it was steady. It could have been a couple better but I would have taken it at the start of the day. It was a tough day and the wind was really swirling and it was gusting.
“I was struggling a bit last week in Austria. I was hitting it all over the place and I videoed it and sent the videos of my swing to my coach. He told me to stop my hips turning because I was getting a bit lazy with my lower half so whenever I do that I always hit it everywhere. I managed to have a day on Monday at home to do some practise and it felt much better.”
First year player Anna-Karin Salmen from Finland recorded her first ever hole-in-one at the 133-yard par three hole, using a six-iron, which helped her to a round of 73.
Local favourites Jade Schaeffer and Gwladys Nocera from France made steady starts, with rounds of 71 and 72 respectively.
The second round begins on Friday at 8.10am.