England’s Holly Clyburn shot straight to the top of the leader board in the inaugural Australian Ladies Classic Bonville on Thursday morning.
The 27-year-old from Cleethorpes had a blemish-free five-under-par 67 in warm and overcast conditions at Bonville Golf Resort, for a new course record, to end the day two strokes clear of Valdis Thora Jonsdottir from Iceland and Marta Sanz Barrio from Spain.
After starting from the ninth, Clyburn birdied the 10th, 12th, fifth, sixth and seventh holes, but said it could have been even better.
“It’s been nice to go and play some free golf and shoot 67, which was not very stressful. I still had 32 putts out there and hit 17 greens, so it was probably the worst I could have shot, but I wasn’t getting greedy, because it’s not an easy golf course and it can turn you upside down.
“You can’t switch off at any point. The grain is really strong out there. You’ve got to put it in the right areas and that’s what I did. You’ve just got to be careful.”
Clyburn is playing for her fourth professional title, after previous wins in the 2015 New South Wales Open, the 2013 Deloitte Ladies Open and in Spain on the LET Access Series in 2012, while Jonsdottir and Sanz are looking to become first-time winners in Bonville on the Coffs Coast.
“This course is just about being patient, as you can easily lose your temper,” said Jonsdottir.
Sanz Barrio said: “I wasn’t hitting it great, but the putter was hot.”
Hannah Green and Steph Na were the best two Australians in an eight-way tie for fourth place on two-under-par, with Indian Sharmila Nicollet, China’s Xi Yu Lin, Nanna Koerstz Madsen from Denmark, Mexican Ana Menendez, Germany’s Olivia Cowan and Céline Boutier from France.
Perth’s Green, who finished third in the Women’s Australian Open last week, birdied her last two holes and said: “I didn’t have much going on earlier in the round, but it was good to finish strongly.
“The course was playing tough. There are some tricky pin positions, so you can hit a good shot and be a good 30 feet away.
“I am pleased, considering I didn’t hit it too well and I didn’t putt too well. I had a couple of three-putts, so to shoot two-under and still be in contention, I’m very happy.”
Adelaide’s Na also stayed patient on the greens. She said: “I didn’t get off to the greatest start as I bogeyed my first hole. I had a solid back nine with three birdies and no bogeys, so I made a couple of birdies coming in and I’m quite happy with it.”
Indian Nicollet benefited from the local knowledge of her caddie, the former touring pro and Bonville teaching professional Richie Gallichan and she said: “Richie’s been great. He knows these greens and this course inside out, so it’s been great. It was good teamwork today.
“I think today the greens were really hard and the pins were in tough positions, so strategy and ball striking were important.”
Fresh from qualifying for the China LPGA Tour after three months of intensive training in the United States, Nicollet was delighted to be in contention, but the shot of the day belonged to Belinda Ji, the 15-year-old amateur from Sydney, who made a hole-in-one using a 7-iron at the 17th.