Dubai: Florentyna Parker leads after day one of the Omega Ladies Masters at Emirates Golf Club thanks to a winning five under par round of 67.
Six birdies and a bogey on her penultimate hole, over the 6425 yard par 72 Majlis Course, put the Englishwoman one shot clear of second placed Maria Verchenova of Russia who finished four under par with 68 after making a birdie on her last hole.
The following golfers are tied for third with three under par scores heading into the second day; Bo Mi Suh, Morgana Robbertze, Juliet Granada, Marianne Skarpnord and In Kyung Kim.
21-year-old Parker said of her early lead, "I got off to a great start that's what I struggled with last year. I always struggled with the first round and was always a few shots behind and now I'm absolutely delighted that I gave myself a good chance."
Some of the praise must go to her cousin Matthew Parker, aged 24, a professional golfer himself at Al Badia Golf Course in Dubai, who has set Florentyna up with a bit of pre-tournament warm-weather practice in the UAE, given that Parker's native England is currently under blankets of snow.
Parker added, "We still have three rounds left and so many more shots to be played. Obviously everybody wants to be leading after the first round because that gives you the best opportunity to win, and I'm delighted if I stay in this position [today] or if I'm a shot behind or so; I don't think it really matters at this stage."
"I can't control what the other players are doing, someone might shoot 62 — but I'm playing good golf — I hope for another steady round tomorrow."
Maria Verchenova in second-place meanwhile is an interesting case. She could lose her European Tour card if she doesn't finish inside the top 20 of this leaderboard. Monday morning's Qualifying School in Lamanga, Southern Spain was a major prospect heading into this weekend after a back and wrist injury ruined her season. But after day one's performance, if the Tour's only Russian is going down, she's doing so with a fight.
Verchenova's score card took in two consecutive birdies on the seventh and eighth before a bogey on the ninth, and another three birdies on the tenth, 17 and 18.
Asked if the prospect of having to re-qualify daunted her, Verchenova said, "No. I'm not really thinking about it. I'm just going forward, playing a good game, and if it's going in, it's going in, and if it's not going in, it's not, that's all."
Title: Pace in the merit race
The Race for the LET Order of Merit between Lee-Ann Pace and Laura Davies looks pegged in Pace's favour after day one, despite both finishing over par.
Pace recorded a one over par round 73 with two bogeys and a double fault on 14 disrupting three birdies, while Davies scored a three over par 75, her worst round in four years of competing at this event.
Four bogeys and a double fault on ten were eased only by three birdies.
Davies said, "You can never give up. I know I'm eight behind first and six or seven behind second. It's not the end of the world yet — I've got to shoot five or six under the next three days."
Pace added, "I played okay, I've been working on my swing so its natural for first day to struggle a little bit — tomorrow I know how course is playing now so I'm trying to go low and hopefully the putts will drop."