— Celine Herbin, Sarah Kemp and Sally Watson shared the first round lead in the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters as temperatures soared to 26C at Buckinghamshire Golf Club in Denham, England, on Thursday.
The moderate breeze was a welcome relief for spectators, but presented a challenge to the 144 players on the leafy parkland course just outside London.
French 31-year-old Herbin set the pace with a five-under-par 67 in the morning but was later joined by Australian Sarah Kemp and first year professional Sally Watson of Scotland.
Watson, who will turn 23 next week, birdied the last two holes to join the leaders and later said: “I didn’t get off to a great start as I bogeyed the first two holes but I did a great job of staying positive and focused and then I had a birdie on the third, which helped and I started to give myself lots of good chances. It was great to have my dad (Graham) on the bag because he’s really good in the wind.”
Kemp bemused spectators by wearing a stripy woolly jumper throughout her round as she rattled off five birdies. She said: “It was nice and solid. I didn’t have a bogey, hit 15 greens and made a few good putts at the end. It was a good back nine and a nice birdie at the last. I really like the course. You’ve got chances on the par fives, to take your opportunity and some of them you can hit in two. It’s one of my favourite courses to play in the UK. It’s perfect.”
Three further players ended the first day a stroke further behind on four-under-par. Caroline Masson of Germany finished third on this course in 2013 and is feeling inspired by watching countryman Martin Kaymer win the US Open.
After firing a 68 containing five birdies and just one bogey, Masson said: “It was a shame on 17 because it’s a great hole and you can lay up or you can go for the green. It was pretty downwind and I was a little bit between three-wood and driver. It’s kind of hard. I thought maybe I’ll hit the driver a little easier but it went into that water. It’s a great chance to make birdie or eagle but I got away with a bogey and it was okay.”
Becky Morgan’s 68 included six birdies and two bogeys. The Welshwoman, who lives in Florida, said: “The wind picked up on the back nine. It was a little breezy early on, but now it’s definitely affecting the ball so I was happy with four-under today. I’ve been hitting the ball well but not scoring so well so it was nice to see the putts going in because it has been a little scrappy at times. I’m hoping this will be the turning point for my year.”
Amelia Lewis, from Florida in the USA, was another player acclimatised to the sunshine. After shooting her 68, she said: “It was a perfect day in the 80s with the wind blowing and no humidity, so I hardly broke a sweat.”
Amy Boulden, who received a last minute call up to the tournament after Pernilla Lindberg withdrew before the first round on Thursday morning, continued her strong record at the Buckinghamshire after winning the US Women’s Open qualifier at the venue six weeks ago. She opened with a three-under-par 69, to lie alongside Gwladys Nocera, Vikki Laing, Diana Luna and Valentine Derrey.
England’s Solheim Cup star Charley Hull and Cheyenne Woods of the United States are among a group of 11 players tied for 12th place on two-under-par.
Hull said: “I let a few go on the back nine, which was the front nine, but I played it as the back nine. Apart from that I’m quite happy. I missed one short putt but I felt like I putted quite well. I lost a few drives up in the air because I hit them too high so I’m going to work on lower trajectory ball flights. I’m pretty happy with the round.
“It’s a really windy day today, especially in the afternoon. That wind was gusting up there. Getting in the clubhouse at two under with an under par round is good and especially with the Ricoh Women’s British Open coming up next week. It’s good to practice your wind shots.”
The defending champion Karrie Webb opened with a 73 for a share of 40th position, while Dame Laura Davies shot a 74 to sit in a tie for 58th, just inside the projected cut for Friday’s second round.
Collated scores at the end of round 1:
67 – Celine Herbin (FRA) , Sally Watson (SCO) , Sarah Kemp (AUS)
68 – Amelia Lewis (USA) , Caroline Masson (GER) , Becky Morgan (WAL)
69 – Vikki Laing (SCO) , Diana Luna (ITA) , Amy Boulden (WAL) , Gwladys Nocera (FRA) , Valentine Derrey (FRA)
70 – Rebecca Hudson (ENG) , Joanna Klatten (FRA) , Charley Hull (ENG) , Su-Hyun Oh (AUS) , Pamela Pretswell (SCO) , Stacy Lee Bregman (RSA) , Katie Burnett (USA) , Lee-Anne Pace (RSA) , Ursula Wikstrom (FIN) , Sophie Walker (ENG) , Cheyenne Woods (USA)