Manon de Roey Photo credit: Tristan Jones/Alps Tour
Manon De Roey and Maria Palacios produced opening rounds of five-under-par 67 to sit one behind the leaders, Frederic Lacroix and Clemens Gaster, after the first round of the Saint-Malo Golf Mixed Open: the first ever mixed professional Tour event in Europe.
There have been several combined men’s and women’s events over the last 12 months, including the European Mixed Team Championships and the Jordan Mixed Open, but this tournament is unique in that it includes men from the Alps Tour and women from the Ladies European Tour Access Series, who are competing against each other in the same field, for the same prize money.
While some were curious about the prospect of setting up a genuinely fair course at Saint-Malo Golf Resort, where the Alps Tour has played the Saint-Malo Open for the past three years, both the men and women players agreed that the organisers had struck the right balance.
“I enjoyed playing with the boys,” said Belgian De Roey. “I enjoyed it and I thought the guys were very respectful and the course was fair.
“We had about the same distance into the greens. I think we should have more tournaments like this in the future, because it’s great for both tours. The course definitely suits me and its scoreable. I felt pretty confident.”
Peruvian Palacios, who shares third with De Roey and four other players, also enjoyed playing in the new event.
She said: “I played with two guys, a Frenchman and Belgian, who were very nice. It’s the first time I’ve played with the boys and it was really fun. Obviously they played from the back tees and they had to wait a little for me to tee off, but I think the set-up was fair, because they hit it longer and I think it was fair to the players from both tours.”
England’s Rachael Goodall is a shot further back in a tie for ninth with three rounds to go. She said: “I played with two guys today and it was really nice. They are quite laid back in comparison to the girls, so it was fun to play with them. I really like the course and you can make a lot of birdies here, but also a lot of mistakes if you’re not straight off the tee.
“I hit nearly all the fairways and most of the greens. I finished birdie, birdie, which was nice. I’ll try to hit my driver as much as I can over the next three days and hole some putts.”
Clemens Gaster Photo credit: Tristan Jones/Alps Tour
Co-leader Gaster, who represented Austria with former LET Access Series order of merit winner Sarah Schober in the European Mixed Team Championships at Gleneagles last year, also enjoyed playing the refreshing format.
He said: “I think it was very interesting to see how to play against the girls and it was fun. I think it was fair, because if you look at the leader board, the men are slightly in front, but I think the girls have good chances.
“I’m used to playing with girls sometimes on the course, but some shots are different, especially on the par 3s, because you can’t see which club the others have taken, but it’s good.”
Parisian Lacroix, winner of the Ein Bay Open and Alps de las Castillas, is looking to win his third Alps Tour title this season in order to snatch a hat-trick on home soil and graduate to the Challenge Tour. He made the perfect start with a bogey-free round and said: “I’m super happy with my game. I didn’t make any mistakes, just played my game and made six birdies.
“It’s my first time at Saint-Malo. The course is not very long, a bit tricky off the tee and pin positions a bit in the corners. You just have to keep your focus to not make any mistakes.
“This is my first time playing in a mixed tournament and it’s fun. I really don’t mind it and I would do it again.
“I just need to do the same thing tomorrow and the day after and the day after that and hopefully come out on top.”
With three rounds to go, the female competitors will be looking to prove their skills and stay in the battle.
After two rounds, a cut will be made to the leading 45 professionals and ties, who will head into the weekend.
The final round will be played on Sunday and Pascal Grizot, Vice President of the French Golf Federation and President of the Ryder Cup 2018, who is the patron of the event, will be present to support this unique development in European golf taking place in France.