|LET rookie Klara Spilkova from the Czech Republic|
The focus may have been on 16-year-old professional Lexi Thompson from the United States ahead of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, but another 16-year-old professional, Klara Spilkova from the Czech Republic, was the one to watch in the opening stages of the first round.
The Ladies European Tour rookie from Prague, who turns 17 on Thursday, began her round at 7.20am and took the early lead with five birdies on the back nine of the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club.
However she dropped shots at the second and third holes to slip back into a share of the lead with Nikki Garrett, Becky Brewerton and Minea Blomqvist on three under par after 12 holes, with seven players in the mix a stroke further back.
Another youngster, local amateur Sana Tufail, had a strong start. After a bogey at her opening hole, the tenth, the 15-year-old Abu Dhabi schoolgirl eagled the 540-yard par-five 13th.
She is the youngest player in the field in the history of the tournament, having received an invitation to play after winning the Ladies’ Open at her home club Yas Links recently with a women’s amateur course record of two under par 70.
Tufail moved to the Middle East from England when she was two and first picked up a club aged four. She has been coached at the Butch Harmon School for Golf in Dubai and her senior instructor Luke Cantello is acting as her caddie this week.
She currently plays off a handicap of plus one, which is the lowest handicap of any girl under 18 in the Middle East. She leads the Emirates Golf Federation’s order of merit having won five out of six competitions to date.