South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace embarked on a birdie rampage in the opening round of the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters to rocket into the top spot at the Golf Club Hubbelrath in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Nine birdies were more than enough to cover the two blemishes on her card and the nine-time Ladies European Tour champion signed off with a seven-under-par 65 and a handy one stroke lead.
Pace rubbed out an unfortunate bogey start with a birdie at the third before reeling in four birdies in a row from the fifth to turn four under. The three-time Chase to the Investec Cup winner also bogeyed the opening hole on the back nine, but she eliminated the stain with four more gains, including a pair of birdies at the closing holes.
‘I had an unlucky break on my first hole when I hit something, but I didn’t make many mistakes after that,’ said the 35-year-old Pace.
‘I hit a lot of fairways and greens and made a number of putts, so I’m really happy with that start. This is the kind of course where you need to shape it off the tee. The greens do hold quite easily so even with long irons or hybrids, you can stop the ball.
‘I’m really happy with my new irons, the new PING blade irons. I just got them and I absolutely love them; I feel really comfortable. I’m playing nicely. My swing is good and I feel like I can shape it both ways.’
Fellow South African and Rio Olympian Ashleigh Simon carded a one over 73 to tie for 36th, fellow Sunshine Ladies Tour champion Stacy Bregman grabbed a share of 52nd at two over and Connie Chen finished a further stroke back in joint 63.
Nicole Garcia signed off with a 77 to join fellow Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigner Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland in the bus at five over and the final South African in the field, Laurette Maritz, opened with an 85.
Pace leads by one from American Katie Burnett, who offset a lone bogey with seven birdies, and is two strokes clear of 2014 champion In-Kyung Kim from South Korea.
Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell, American Amelia Lewis and Jessica Bradley from England share fourth spot on four-under-par 68.
Picture of Lee-Anne Pace in action on Thursday is courtesy of LET/Tristan Jones