ENGLAND’S Charlotte Thompson said she was absolutely buzzing after shooting a six-under-par 66 – her career best score on the Ladies European Tour – to lead after the first round of the inaugural La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational.
The 26-year-old from Chelmsford, Essex, said: “What a start! What a great course, what a great day and beautiful weather. I really took advantage of the fact that there wasn’t much wind today. I just played really smart and sensible.”
Germany’s Rising rookie star Esther Henseleit is a shot back in second, with fellow countryman Olivia Cowan, local favourite María Parra, Australian Whitney Hillier and English duo Hannah Burke, from Hertfordshire, and Gemma Clews are tied for third on four-under.
Thompson, who averages 275-280 yards off the tee, used her distance to her advantage on the difficult, 6427-yard long course.
“It’s really nice for me to play somewhere that gives me the advantage,” Thompson added. “Sometimes we play on some fiddly golf courses but this has a bit of both. You do have to be wise on where you hit the ball, but it’s great to be long.”
Thompson started from the 10th and played her first nine in 34 to set on two-under, but kicked on with a 32 over her second nine, which included birdies on the first and fifth holes, as well as an eagle.
The shot of the day was her third at the par-five second, where she slam dunked the ball into the hole using a 52 degree wedge from 107 yards.
Thompson, who recorded a career best tie for eighth in the Lalla Meryem Cup a fortnight ago, said: “We got up to the green and there was only one ball and I’m like, ‘I’m sure mine didn’t go long.’ I checked the hole and there it was, at the bottom of the hole. I’m very happy!”
Another long-hitter, Henseleit, who tied for fourth in Morocco, was the only player to sign a bogey-free card, which featured five birdies.
Henseleit has posted five top 10 finishes from her first six tournaments on tour and is hoping to break into the winner’s circle in her seventh start as a professional.
The 20-year-old from Hamburg, a member of the 2017 European PING Junior Solheim Cup team, said: “I played really solid today and my drives were good, so I had the chance to go for the green all the time. I also hit a lot of greens in regulation and had so many chances for birdie. My putting was alright, not everything dropped, but it was okay.
“I will try to do my best and hopefully I can finish top 10 or even better. I feel really good and confident and I’m happy to be out here and competing here. I’ve had some really good tournaments in the last few weeks and of course I’m hoping for a win.”
Burke, the 2015 Tipsport Ladies Masters winner who began as a junior at Mid Herts, said that the Odyssey No. 7 putter she borrowed from European Tour player Tom Lewis ahead of the Lalla Meryem Cup is staying in her bag.
Burke said: “It’s just made a huge difference and I’m holing a lot more putts and feeling more confident on the greens. As soon as you see a few balls drop, your whole attitude changes.”
The La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational continues over the next three days and is the sixth last qualification event for The Solheim Cup on the Ladies European Tour, when Europe take on the USA at Gleneagles in September.