Cassandra Kirkland in the first round

Cassandra Kirkland of France shot a four-under-par 68 on Friday to take a one stroke lead over three players after the first round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open.

The 28-year-old from Paris had four birdies in a morning-round on the Fidra Course at Archerfield Links in Dirleton, East Lothian. She birdied the first, 11th, 13th and 14th in sunny conditions, before the skies clouded over and winds picked up for the afternoon.

“I’m hitting really well so I’m very confident with my long game and I made a couple of putts,” said Kirkland, who won her lone tour title at the Sanya Ladies Open in China in October.

She has a strong record in Scotland, with a tie for 10th in 2012 and equal 14th place in 2011.  “This is my fourth time here and I’ve had two holes in one on this golf course so every time I go on a par three it’s kind of nice,” she said.

“Today, I almost made it on 13, with my 8-iron. Conditions were okay until number 12 and it started being very windy on hole 13, so the last six holes were tough. On 17 I hit a 5-wood but it was short, I should have hit a 3-wood, so the wind is really, really strong.”

Fellow Frenchwoman Anne-Lise Caudal, South African Lee-Anne Pace and England’s Trish Johnson all played later, in a wind requiring three clubs extra. At three-under 69, they must all fancy their chances. Pace, the European Order of Merit leader, has two wins this year, in Turkey and Spain. She eagled the second and recorded three additional birdies in her round.

Trish Johnson

All three are links experts with excellent records in windy conditions. Caudal is from the surfing paradise of Saint Jean-de-Luz, while Pace grew up at windy Mossel Bay and Johnson learned her golf on the Devon coastline at Westward Ho!

“It was pretty tough and quite windy, especially on the back nine. It does affect the ball quite a bit but I got through that in one under and a solid front nine,” said Pace, who tied for fifth in 2011. “That last hole played a good 25 metres extra into the wind, but I finished birdie, birdie. The last hole was a hybrid into the green and I hit it well so was happy about that. On a course like this, you can’t go for it. You just have to play one shot at a time and make your birdies where you can.”

Caudal shares a coach with Pace in James Petts and said: “I’m very happy because it was tough today and it’s a long time since I had a score under par, because I’m struggling this year. I made some changes, changed coach, changed many things in my swing, so I’m very happy. I’ve played well in this tournament and I’m trying to be patient. I try to keep my concentration.”

Johnson is another woman with strong results at the venue. She tied for fourth in 2012, ninth in 2011 and was equal second in 2010, when she needed to birdie the par-five to force a play-off, but took six to drop one behind the eventual winner, Virginie Lagoutte-Clement. Once again, she is playing with BBC football pundit Alan Hansen, and will be hoping to make it third time lucky in the professional and Pro-Am element.

English rookie professional Emily Taylor, Klara Spilkova of the Czech Republic and Scotland’s Heather MacRae, who won the Solvesborg Open in Sweden on the LET Access Series in May, were all two strokes off the lead on 70. MacRae is playing on an invitation this year and this is her only LET start, as she plans to play 13 events on LETAS, the LET developmental tour.

Meanwhile, Solheim Cup heroine Catriona Matthew from nearby North Berwick was locked in a four-way share of eighth position on 71 with Swede Camilla Lennarth and English pair Florentyna Parker and Hannah Burke.  

The 2011 champion, Matthew was an early afternoon starter and played in windy, overcast conditions before the heavens briefly opened at the end of her round. She had a two birdies and one bogey and said: “I thought I played well because it was tough. It got very difficult after the wind picked up after four or five holes; it was a three club wind. The back nine was more exposed, so I’m quite pleased.”

Tee times switch for Saturday, before a cut to the leading 50 and ties heading into the final round.

Round 1 scores from the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open

Fidra Course, Archerfield Links, East Lothian

(par 72)

68 – Cassandra Kirkland (FRA)

69 – Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA) , Lee-Anne Pace (RSA) , Trish Johnson (ENG)

70 – Emily Taylor (ENG) , Klara Spilkova (CZE) , Heather Macrae (SCO)

71 – Florentyna Parker (ENG) , Camilla Lennarth (SWE) , Hannah Burke (ENG) , Catriona Matthew (SCO)

72 – Sophie Giquel-Bettan (FRA) , Marjet Van Der Graaff (NED) , Nontaya Srisawang (THA) , Ann-Kathrin Lindner (GER) , Veronica Zorzi (ITA) , Ashleigh Simon (RSA) , Rebecca Artis (AUS)

73 – Stephanie Na (AUS) , Carly Booth (SCO) , Nikki Garrett (AUS) , Beth Allen (USA) , Liz Young (ENG) , Caroline Afonso (FRA) , Maha Haddioui (MAR)

74 – Henni Zuel (ENG) , Julie Greciet (FRA) , Vikki Laing (SCO) , Rebecca Hudson (ENG) , Stefania Croce (ITA) , Lydia Hall (WAL) , Louise Larsson (SWE) , Maria Hernandez (ESP) , Carin Koch (SWE) , Holly Clyburn (ENG) , Minea Blomqvist (FIN) , Pamela Pretswell (SCO) , Sophie Walker (ENG) , Hannah Jun (USA)

75 – Kylie Walker (SCO) , Sahra Hassan (WAL) , Stacey Keating (AUS) , Diana Luna (ITA) , Mikaela Parmlid (SWE) , Line Vedel (DEN) , Gwladys Nocera (FRA) , Margherita Rigon (ITA) , Jade Schaeffer (FRA)

76 – Valentine Derrey (FRA) , Linda Wessberg (SWE)

77 – Tara Davies (WAL) , Kelsey Macdonald (SCO) , Connie Chen (RSA) , Marion Ricordeau (FRA) , Danielle Montgomery (ENG) , Melissa Reid (ENG) , Stacy Lee Bregman (RSA)

78 – Tania Elosegui (ESP) , Marianne Skarpnord (NOR) , Bree Arthur (AUS) , Rebecca Codd (IRL) , Lucie Andre (FRA)

79 – Anais Maggetti (SUI) , Alison Whitaker (AUS)

80 – Holly Aitchison (ENG) , Titiya Plucksataporn (THA)

81 – Ursula Wikstrom (FIN) , Nikki Campbell (AUS)

83 – Georgina Simpson (ENG)

84 – Katy McNicoll (SCO)