Three of South Africa’s top ranked golfers finished within striking distance of Celine Herbin, Sarah Kemp and Scottish rookie Sally Watson, who share the lead after the opening round of the ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters in England. Lee-Anne Pace and Stacy Bregman carded 70s to tie for sixth, while last year’s runner-up, Ashleigh Simon, finished a further shot back at Buckinghamshire Golf Club. LET rookie Kim Williams and Connie Chen carded one over 73s to tie for 40th, while Sunshine Tour regulars Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland and Namibia’s Bonita Bredenhann opened with rounds of 75 and 79 respectively.
Herbin from France and Australia’s Kemp teed off in the morning wave and set the target at five-under-par 67. Watson carried some good form from a third place finish at the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open last week to join the duo in the afternoon. Former SA Women’s Open champion, Caroline Masson from Germany, finished one of the pace alongside Amelia Lewis from the United States and Welsh pro, Becky Morgan.
Pace and Bregman joined some esteemed company at two under, including Rebecca Hudson, Sophie Walker and recent Lalla Meryem Cup winner, Charley Hull from England, Joanna Klatten from France and Americans Katie Burnett and Cheyenne Woods. Simon was out first for the local contingent and drpped three shots on her outward loop. The three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner rallied with birdies at the 10th, 13th, 14th and 17th, though, to finish under par.
Scoring was slightly higher in the afternoon as the breezy conditions firmed up the greens. Investec Cup for Ladies champion Pace turned in two under after knocking in an eagle-putt at the par-five 14th. Back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth put paid to a pair of birdies just after the turn, but the eight-time LET winner completed the loop with four pars for her 70.
Bregman, coming off a tie for fifth at the Italian Ladies Open, notched two birdies to offset a double bogey at the 16th and turned level-par. The reigning Zambia Ladies Open champion birdied the second, dropped a shot at the par-three seventh and finished with back-to-back birdies to join the bus at two under. Williams shaved one shot off a bogey, double bogey start with a birdie at the sixth and cancelled a bogey at the eighth with a birdie at the par-five ninth to turn in two over.
The 27-year-old Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Houghton winner followed a bogey at the 10th with back-to-back birdies and cancelled another double bogey at the 13th with a pair of birdies at the final two holes. Chen fared better with the fast greens, reeling in three birdies against four drops for her 73.
Photo: Investec Cup for Ladies champion, Lee-Anne Pace
Photo credit: Dale Boyce