Scotland’s Sally Watson and Sweden’s Emma Westin shot matching opening rounds of five-under-par 67 at Golfclub Gams-Werdenberg in eastern Switzerland on Friday to lead the inaugural Association Suisse de Golf Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour (LET) Access Series.
LET rookie Watson, from Elie, compiled a flawless score with five birdies, while Westin started with a bogey on the first hole before recovering with four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 18th hole.
Sweden’s Antonella Cvitan and German amateur Olivia Cowan were a stroke behind in a share of third place on 68, with a further five players on three-under-par.
Cvitan, who won the 2012 Samso Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour Access Series (LETAS), started slowly with a bogey on the third hole but fired five birdies on the back nine. She was then joined at four-under by 18-year-old Cowan, who had six birdies and two dropped shots on the lush course at the foothills of the snow-capped Swiss Alps.
Early starters Vittoria Valvassori of Italy, Klára Spilkova of the Czech Republic and Ursula Wikstrom of Finland were later joined by former Curtis Cup player Amy Boulden of Wales and 17-year-old Hungarian amateur Csilla Lajtai-Rozsa on 69.
Cvitan, 33, from Helsingborg, said: “We had a little bit of a struggle on the front nine because it was quite bad weather and then on the back nine I had a couple of good birdie chances and holed them and the rain stopped so it was a lot easier. I tried to keep my head down and not make any silly mistakes.
“I started on 10 and hit it to about a foot. Then I had 12, 13 and 14 when I hit it quite close. On 13 I holed a chip, so I had a couple there and on the last hole as well.”
Cowan, who was born in Germany to English parents and plays at Golfclub St Leon-Rot, The 2015 Solheim Cup venue, received an invitation to play in the event and impressed on her LETAS debut.
“I hit a lot of solid shots that ended a metre or two metres from the flag so I had makeable putts and holed two longer putts from eight metres. One was on 17 and one was on hole-three, the par 3,” the +2.7 handicap player said.
Valvassori also had a solid round, with four birdies against one bogey and she said: “I just hit fairways, greens and tried to hole the putts and keep going with a good rhythm and enjoy the day. I think it’s a tough course as there are some long holes but I think it’s in really good condition because it was raining today but really good to play.”
Wikstrom, who fired three birdies and Spilkova, with five birdies and two dropped shots, are in Switzerland warming up for next week’s Turkish Airlines Ladies Open.
“I was hitting quite okay and played everything but the par fives well. There were a few putts left hanging but it was still okay. No bogeys, so no mistakes,” said Wikstrom, while Spilkova commented: “I had four crazy long putts today.”
Players at two-under-par included England’s Anna Scott and Charlotte Ellis, Sweden’s Josefine Sundh and Daisy Neilsen of Denmark.
Due to government restrictions, cutting the tall grass is not permitted until mid-June and several players found themselves entangled in the thick meadow grass.
However, course management was the key to a steady round for Scott, who said: “I hit the ball really well and hit good iron shots. I didn’t use my driver once. I was tempted to hit it on my last hole but there’s no point: it’s a par five. I just used three or five wood all the way round because it’s all about keeping it in play off the tee. The golf course, if you go in the long grass, it’s so wet, you can’t get anything out other than hacking it out with a wedge. I hit the ball nicely and putted alright but mostly it was my iron shots which were good.”
The leading Swiss player was amateur Azelia Meichtry in a share of 21st place on one-under-par.
The Mätzler sisters, Melanie and Monja, from nearby Bad Ragaz, who had a role in the organisation of the tournament, opened with rounds of 73 and 81 respectively and will be hoping to make the cut to the leading 40 players after Saturday’s second round.