LET rookie Mallory Fraiche of the United States fired a first-round four under par 69 to take a two stroke lead at the Terre Blanche Ladies Open on Thursday, in the season-opening event on the LET Access Series.
The 25-year-old from New Orleans, Louisiana, fired six birdies and two bogeys over Le Riou course at Terre Blanche: the breathtaking, five-star resort in the heart of Provence, which was voted 'Golf Resort of the Year Europe 2013' in November in the IAGTO Awards.
Playing in perfect, calm and sunny conditions, Fraiche went out with four birdies on the front nine but mixed two dropped shots with a pair of birdies on the back nine.
The third year professional, who finished eighth at the LET’s Lalla Aicha Tour School for 2013 in Marrakech in December, ended the day two strokes clear of Spanish amateur Patricia Sanz Barrio.
Fraiche said: “My putting was the strongest part of my game today. The greens are so slick and you have to be on the right side of the pin. Even with a 12 foot birdie putt, you have to be careful with the one coming back. You have to really concentrate on your speed, I was really happy with my speed today.
“The course is in great shape, it's a little wet because of the rain, but it's great. I love wet courses because I hit it high and carry it most of the way, so it helps my game.”
Having warmed up for the season with six or seven appearances on the ALPG Tour in Australia, Fraiche may be peaking at just the right time, at the start of the main European season, with the Lalla Meryem Cup being played next week in Morocco.
“I'm so excited, it's my first year on a major tour and I'm just looking forward to it,” she said.
On her approach to the next two rounds, the Metairie, Los Angeles, resident added: “Just the same as today, hit the ball on the right side of the pins and have really good speed; that's what it's about out there.”
Despite the perfect conditions, only five players broke par on the opening day, with Germany’s Steffi Kirchmayr, Spain’s Maria Beautell and Frenchwoman Sophie Giquel-Bettan in a share of third on one under par.
A field of 96 players from 23 different countries is playing for a purse of €25,000 over three rounds from Thursday, 21st to Saturday, 23rd March. Following the first two rounds, a cut to the leading 30 players and those tied will compete in the final round on Saturday.
Terre Blanche, a stunning, mature resort is a breath-taking five star facility offering a hotel and state-of-the-art Spa to the world-renowned Albatros Golf Performance Centre, and is completed by two delightfully challenging 18 hole courses designed by Dave Thomas.
Developed by the Hopp family, Dietmar Hopp, past CEO of SAP - former co-sponsor of the SAP-Deutsche Bank Open on The European Tour - and now President of the club, Terre Blanche also acts as the winter base for the French Golf Federation’s elite amateur squads.
The Terre Blanche Ladies Open will be played on Le Riou: a highly technical course requiring strategy and precision, stretching to 6,005 metres (6,567 yards) and featuring rolling contours and winding fairways. The course unfolds through pine- and oak-lined hills and valleys, providing inspiring views of medieval Provençal villages and the Southern Alps.