By Richard C Talbot

There are a number of names at the top of the leaderboard in Pattaya at the end of day one that will cause no surprise. Anne Van Dam, Whitney Hillier and Beth Allen would certainly have been on most people’s minds when thinking of potential winners this week at Phoenix Gold. But there are also a couple of names that will cause a few eyebrows to be raised after their performances.

The morning saw Maria Palacios from Spain record an impressive three under par to claim a share of fifth place. Her ranking of 107 in Europe meant that she had to rely on a sponsor’s invite to be entered into the tournament and she took it with both hands. The 27-year-old, who experienced golf in the Unites States, has only had 10 LET starts.

The round was even more impressive considering that this resident of Castellon in Spain, was without a caddie. Choosing to push around the bag and trolley herself, she was undaunted by this and her impressive reading of the greens brought her great reward. She certainly hit a great rhythm and it will be interesting to see if this form is continued into the weekend.

Equally as surprising was the splendid form of Aunchisa Utama who may be as shocked as anyone to see her name holding a share of the lead. Starting on the back nine her score was made even more impressive as she shot five under par on front nine, widely regarded as being tougher than the back nine.

The 27-year-old from Lopburi has been a professional on the Thailand LPGA for six years. Commonly known as “Jan” she has only ever won one tournament and that was five years ago. As well as playing in Thailand she also competes in the Philippines and China in their LPGA events. On her day she can master any course and it will now be her aim to maintain this performance for the remainder of the tournament.

Whether or not these two girls go on and win the tournament is irrelevant, as it is possible that today has seen both of these golfers having the most satisfying experiences of their golf careers to date.