After trailing defending champ Ariya Jutanugarn through the front nine, English pair Sophie Walker and Rebecca Hudson picked up shots on the back nine as Jutanugarn struggled to stay even. In the end, Walker and Hudson both carded 66 and share the first round lead at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco. Going into the second round with a slender one-stroke edge over Frenchwoman Sophie Giquel-Bettan and two strokes ahead of a crowd of five players sharing the fourth slot on the leaderboard, Walker and Hudson will face some tough challengers tomorrow.
The First Round Leaders: Sophie Walker & Rebecca Hudson
Walker’s and Hudson’s position at the top of the board is a bit of a surprise to LET fans. They’re both veteran LET players — Hudson joined the LET in 2002 and Walker in 2006 — but they’ve not established winning resumes. Walker played 18 events in 2013 and her best finish was a tie for 20th at the World Ladies Championship, the only event she’s entered in the 2014 season. This year she missed the cut. Hudson played 16 events in 2013 and her best finish was a tie for 9th at the South African Women’s Open. The Lalla Mayrem is Hudson’s first 2014 event.
Surprise or not, Hudson felt her strength was in her short game today and she’s delighted to be holding the early lead and optimistic about tomorrow.
I hit the ball well. I haven’t done as much practice as I would like but I came out and practised here the last few days. I had the ball under control and putted well and that makes a big difference. My short game today was very good and I got up and down all but one time. I can keep this going forward.
Chasing the Lead
Frenchwoman Sophie Giquel-Bettan, winner of the Ladies Open de Portugal in 2007, mixed six birdies with two bogeys on the Golf de l’Ocean course to sit just one stroke behind the leaders. Giquel-Bettan was very pleased with the Moroccan playing conditions:
We had perfect conditions, like 20, 24 degrees and the wind picked up around the 14th hole, but it was good conditions and I did the job and it was fun.
Defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, England’s Charley Hull and the legendary Laura Davies were all in the clubhouse trailing the leaders by two shots.
Early in the round it looked as though history was repeating as Jutanugarn birdied the first three holes and made the turn in five-under. However an erratic driver cost the 18-year-old a double on the par-four 10th and a triple on the par-four 17th. Despite four additional birdies, she was two-over par on the back nine.
My putting and irons were good today and helped me a lot but my driver was so bad. I hit like six provisional balls and had a lost ball and a seven because of my driver. I couldn’t hit it straight so I had to change my mind and hit three-wood.
Hull, who finished three strokes behind Jutanugarn 12 months ago, bogeyed the fourth but had four birdies in a row from the sixth hole. While Jutanugarn struggled with her driver, Hull fought to control her flat stick.
I could have been a lot under par, but the putts didn’t go in. I missed a few short putts to begin with but I learned from that and had four birdies on the trot where I should have had six.
Nobuhle Dlamini, Adriana Brent and Karolin Lampert were the best placed rookies on two-under-par.
Dlamini, the first representative of Swaziland on the LET, was particularly pleased with her first round on Tour. She admitted to feeling nervous on the first tee, but it didn’t last long.
I thought, just get it on the fairway, and I’ll be fine. . . I hit it smack bang in the middle of the fairway and had 68 to the pin. I hit it a metre away and made the birdie putt . . . and I thought, ‘I’m on my way.’
In addition to fan picks Ariya Jutanugarn and Laura Davies, who are starting the 2nd round at the Lalla Leyrem nicely positioned with a share of fourth place, Swede Carin Koch carded 70 today and will start the 2nd round with a share of 16th place, but Scot Pamela Feggans, at +3, is starting the 2nd round below the projected cut line as is the only Moroccan on the LET, Maha Haddioui.