Ladies European Tour rookie professional Olafia Kristinsdottir from Iceland fired an opening round of seven-under-par 65 at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club on Wednesday to take a one stroke lead at the inaugural Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi.
The 24-year-old from Reykjavik made eight birdies and one bogey in the desert heat and dedicated her best round on tour to her late aunt, Pamela Erlendsson, who died of cancer on Tuesday.
“It was a great round. I was feeling a bit blue today because yesterday my aunt passed away so I think today’s round was for her,” said a tearful Kristinsdottir, whose best finish so far this year was a tie for 16th at the Tipsport Golf Masters in Pilsen.
The four players a stroke behind on six-under-par include fellow rookie Olivia Cowan from Germany, Australian Sarah Kemp, Minea Blomqvist of Finland and Beth Allen of the United States, who is chasing the 2016 LET Order of Merit title.
Second ranked Allen, who claimed her second LET title at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France last month, needs a third place finish this week to overtake the 2015 winner Shanshan Feng and the 34-year-old Californian said: “It’s on my mind, but I’m trying to do what I’ve been doing all year. I really like this golf course and I liked it the first time I saw it, so I’m happy that I played well.”
Cowan, a three-time winner on the LET Access Series, is also hitting form after a fourth place finish in the Sanya Ladies Open in China at the weekend. “I’ve had three weeks in China now, practising every day, playing every day, and I think I’m in tournament mode,” said the 20-year-old from Homburg. “I love coming here, especially because one of my sponsors is here. It’s definitely one of my favourite places. I’ve played Saadiyat Beach before as around this time last year we came here with the national team.”
Kemp, whose best finish on the LET this year was a tie for 10th in New Zealand, is enjoying her first trip to Abu Dhabi and said: “The tournament’s great and the course is awesome. The event so far has been really good and all the girls are really happy. Today’s round was nice and solid. I hit the fairways and 16 greens and had 29 putts. I holed a few good birdie putts and my putter was behaving nicely.”
Finland’s Minea Blomqvist was tied for the lead with a hole to play but bogeyed the 18th to slip a stroke behind. Nevertheless, hers was the best score of the afternoon and she said: “I’m very happy with this round. I was very calm and enjoying it. I had a Finnish guy caddying for me that I met this morning and we had a nice day together. I was a little nervous at the end but I tried to stay in the present and focus on my swing.”
A stroke further back in a share of sixth place are Austrian Christine Wolf, Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh and Isi Gabsa of Germany. Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera, England’s Holly Clyburn and Malene Jorgensen are tied for ninth place on four-under-par in the inaugural event, which concludes on Saturday.