Scott Powick - SMP Images
American Alison Walshe sits atop of the leaderboard after the opening round of the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters being played at the RACV Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast.
On a humid and overcast day , Walshe, who was out in one of the later groups, surged to the top with a flawless round of six-under-par 66. The 27-year-old holds a slender one shot advantage over compatriot Jessica Korda, who teed off in one of the early morning groups and was at the top of the leaderboard for the majority of the day.
Australian Stacey Keating, Spain’s Belen Mozo, Thailand’s Nontaya Srisawang and American Dori Carter are at four-under-par, while South Korean Chella Choi, Sweden’s Daniela Holmqvist and rookie Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand share seventh position a further shot back.
A group of 12 players sit at two-under par and are right in the mix, including seven-time Masters champion Karrie Webb, the French pair of Gwladys Nocera and Joanna Klatten and Australians Bree Arthur, Kristie Smith, Nikki Campbell and amateur Minjee Lee.
Walshe started her round on the 10th tee and parred her first five holes before rattling off four straight birdies to go out in 32. The 27-year-old then birdied the 3rd and 8th holes to post an inward 34.
The 27-year-old was asked if she felt this kind of round was coming, “Yeah, I put a lot of work into my off season and what not and its the first round of the year, and I don’t know, I felt really confident, I've been hitting about with my coach, and I had a pretty positive and confident mind set coming into today and now to play the way I did just kind of solidified that and puts me in a good spot.”
She nominated her putting as her strongest part of her game today. “I have been putting a lot of work into that. It was pretty slow (the pace of green) , so I just had to really give it a firm hit or what not, I made a lot of good putts, so I was happy with that.”
Korda, the defending ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open champion, also posted a bogey free round.
The young American was very pleased with her start “It’s nice to have the first round of the season under my belt and for it to be a good one, but still a lot of rust to shake off.”
Keating, who was paired with one of her idols Karrie Webb, was nervous as she expected to be , on the opening hole but handled it well. After her round she commented,
“More nerves than I’ve ever felt I think, definitely. I was very nervous but I was very excited, so I was happy to get the first one airborn and I was away. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to get to know Karrie quite well. I’ve played a lot of rounds with her but never actually a competition round. I think it was a little bit different but I just enjoyed her company out there. “
The two-time LET winner was happy with her opening round of 68 since she was struggling with her driver.
Mozo was battling with illness during her round, said it actually helped her focus more and was very happy with her score.
Defending champion Christel Boeljon opened with a one-over-par 73 to be tied for 47th position. Other notables in the field include Rolex World No. 7 So Yeon Ryu and South Korean Jiyai Shin, both of whom shot 71, while three time winner of the event, England’s Laura Davies posted a 76. Cheyenne Woods carded a 74.
The cut will be made to the top 50 professionals and ties after the second round.