England’s Charlotte Leathem leads the way after the opening day’s play at the Skaftö Open. Leathem played some scintillating golf on her way to shooting a –6 round of 63. The Brit’s nearest challenger is Germany’s Esther Henseleit who hit six birdies on her way to a –5, 64.
Leathem began her round perfectly with a birdie at the par-3 first. A terrific iron from the tee gave the Englishwoman an early birdie opportunity which she duly holed to move straight under par where she stayed for the rest of the day. This was followed up at the second, as Leathem again needed just one putt on the green to card a second successive birdie. She maintained a high level of play over the rest of the front nine to reach the midway mark at –2.
The back nine was even better than the first for Leathem as she hit five birdies in seven holes from holes 11 to 17 and but for a birdie at the last would have held a two-shot lead over Henseleit at the close of play. Throughout the round, Leathem drove the ball superbly, rarely venturing from the fairway, which paved the way for some stellar approach play and consistent birdie opportunities. She describes her driver as ‘usually the reliable one’ and will be counting on more of the same from the tee as she moves into the day two.
‘’It was definitely my day. I went and tried to hit fairways and greens and managed to make some putts on my first nine holes. I stuck to my plan and didn't really go for much on the par 5 holes, which apparently worked. Hopefully I can continue playing well tomorrow,’’ said Leathem after the first round.
The 24-year-old is in her first year playing on the LET Access Series and began the season with the target of three top-5 finishes over the 2019 season. On today’s evidence that looks to be well within the debutant’s reach, having made a steady start to the season with a top-20 finish at the Lavaux Ladies Championship, before a top-50 at the Viaplay Ladies Finnish Open last week.
One shot further back is 20-year-old Esther Henseleit. The German rookie hit six birdies on her way to a very impressive five-under-par round. The youngster is considered one of the future stars of European golf, having already impressed when playing on the Ladies European Tour. At the Jabra Ladies Open, she finished tied for twelfth in what was a dual-ranking event between the LET and LETAS.
Henseleit started to play golf at the age of eight, the Hamburg native has since represented Germany in the World Championships and European Championships, and also lined up for Europe in the PING Junior Solheim Cup, which she rates as the biggest achievement of her amateur career.
Behind the leading duo are three Norwegians in the shape of Tonje Daffinrud, Mariell Bruun and Marianne Skarpnord. The trio carded 64’s to end the day on –4, two behind Leathem, alongside Czech amateur Hana Ryskova.
Home player and crowd favourite Frida Kinhult played the course three-under-par and is tied seventh with Johanna Gustavsson of Sweden.
‘’It was really fun; it was great support out there,’’ said Kinhult.
‘’It feels like the scorecard is better than the game, at the same time there is much more to get out tomorrow and on Saturday. So hopefully it will be a little better tomorrow."
Day two is likely to be more of the same for the players with calm, cool conditions expected on the Swedish Island course for Friday’s play. Sixteen players sit under par after the opening round and with the course offering the chance to shoot a low number, they will tee-off knowing all is to play for with 36 holes to go in Skaftö.