Germany’s Elisabeth Esterl and Italian Veronica Zorzi made a flying start to the Raiffeisenbank Prague Golf Masters as they shared the lead on a sunny but windy opening day at Albatross Golf Resort in the Czech Republic.
The pair shot six under par rounds of 66 to end two strokes ahead of England’s Melissa Reid and South Africans Lee-Anne Pace and Connie Chen.
Zorzi made an explosive start with a front nine total of six under par 30 after four birdies and an eagle at the par-five ninth hole. The 31-year-old from Verona was steadier on the back nine, with just one bogey at the 15th against one birdie on 16.
“It was a nice day. I had a good score, played well, very solid: hit 16 greens and made 29 putts. I like very much this golf course. It’s in very good shape and the greens are great,” Zorzi said.
“There are many par fives and I’m a long hitter so for me it’s good. It’s a really nice course and I’m enjoying being here.”
Esterl, who was six under after 12 holes, following a run of four birdies and an eagle, dropped a shot at the par-four 14th but recovered with a birdie on 17.
The 36-year-old from Bavaria said: “I was very happy as it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been struggling for a while so it feels really, really good and today the putter kept working and it felt very easy.
“It’s been a long time since I was in the red numbers but like I said, if you make some putts and keep it there you can score really well and the greens are fabulous this week. It seems like the hole is bigger in Prague than it has been elsewhere this year.”
Both players made eagles – Zorzi on nine and Esterl on 12 – and they share similar resumes, having each collected two victories on the Ladies European Tour.
Esterl, a former Solheim Cup player who won the 2003 Tenerife Open and 2005 Dutch Open, felt that she had been getting too technical and explained that she had been steering the ball.
“I think I relaxed more because I had been putting too much pressure on myself to perform and I didn’t let it happen so today I put a good swing on, see where it goes and hit it again, so I think that attitude makes a big difference in the game, if you don’t care so much, sometimes its better,” she said.
Zorzi won back-to-back French Open titles in 2005 and 2006 but has since suffered from a serious injury to her right shoulder. Since 2007 she has undergone intensive rehabilitation to avoid career-threatening surgery.
“I had to stop a little bit and again, my right shoulder hurt again, so a few years have been very tough for me. Now it’s perfect, it’s good. Finally I found a good coach and a good personal trainer. We work very hard in the last one year and a half so now, you know, when you work hard, the results come,” she said.
The last three weeks have been particularly rewarding for Zorzi, with a tie for sixth in Holland followed by a share of third place in Slovakia and she opened with two rounds in the 60s last week in Switzerland, before eventually tying for 22nd place.
Esterl, who designs her own clothing range, called ‘Designed on Tour’ or ‘DOT’, recorded a season best tie for 20th at the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open and this could mark the beginning of a renaissance for her.
Raiffeisenbank Prague Golf Masters
Albatross Golf Resort (par 72)
22-24 June, 2012
Scores at the end of round 1:
66 - Elisabeth Esterl (DEU) , Veronica Zorzi (ITA)
68 - Connie Chen (ZAF) , Melissa Reid (ENG) , Lee-Anne Pace (ZAF)
69 - Eleanor Givens (ENG) , Jenni Kuosa (FIN) , Laura Davies (ENG) , Stacey Keating (AUS) , Nikki Garrett (AUS)
70 - Elin Emanuelsson (SWE) , Rachel Bailey (AUS) , Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA) , Yu Yang Zhang (CHN) , Trish Johnson (ENG) , Diana Luna (ITA) , Rebecca Hudson (ENG) , Stefania Croce (ITA) , Marjet Van Der Graaff (NLD)
71 - Anais Maggetti (CHE) , Lisa Holm Sorensen (DNK) , Alison Whitaker (AUS) , Kendall Dye (USA) , Joanna Klatten (FRA) , Lynnette Brooky (NZL) , Danielle Montgomery (ENG) , Marianne Skarpnord (NOR) , Kiran Matharu (ENG) , Felicity Johnson (ENG) , Rebecca Artis (AUS) , Ashleigh Simon (ZAF) , Stephanie Na (AUS) , Sahra Hassan (WAL)
72 - Gwladys Nocera (FRA) , Elizabeth Bennett (ENG) , Mikaela Parmlid (SWE) , Clare Queen (SCO) , Karen Lunn (AUS) , Carly Booth (SCO) , Elena Giraud (FRA) , Monique Smit (ZAF) , Caroline Afonso (FRA) , Ursula Wikstrom (FIN) , Rachel Jennings (ENG) , Charlotte Ellis (ENG) , Zuzana Kamasova (SVK) , Julie Maisongrosse (FRA) , Caroline Masson (DEU) , Sophie Giquel-Bettan (FRA) , Celine Palomar (FRA)
73 - Tania Elosegui (ESP) , Carlota Ciganda (ESP) , Virginie Lagoutte-clement (FRA) , Caroline Westrup (SWE) , Stefanie Michl (AUT) , Louise Larsson (SWE) , Laura Cabanillas (ESP) , Lucie Andre (FRA) , Bree Arthur (AUS) , Sophie Sandolo (ITA) , Linda Wessberg (SWE) , Georgina Simpson (ENG) , Beth Allen (USA) , Margherita Rigon (ITA) , Karolina Vlckova (CZE) , Nontaya Srisawang (THA) , Miriam Nagl (DEU)
74 - Kym Larratt (ENG) , Mireia Prat (ESP) , Malene Jorgensen (DNK) , Anja Monke (DEU) , Hannah Burke (ENG) , Florentyna Parker (ENG) , Marieke Nivard (NLD) , Sharmila Nicollet (IND) , Chrisje De Vries (NLD) , Carmen Alonso (ESP) , Lotta Wahlin (SWE) , Louise Stahle (SWE) , Frances Bondad (AUS) , Holly Aitchison (ENG)
75 - Caroline Martens (NOR) , Kylie Walker (SCO) , Steffi Kirchmayr (DEU) , Alexandra Vilatte (FRA) , Vikki Laing (SCO) , Denisa Sobotkova (CZE) , Liebelei Lawrence (LUX) , Julie Greciet (FRA) , Stacy Lee Bregman (ZAF) , Klara Spilkova (CZE) , Rebecca Codd (IRL) , Sophie Walker (ENG)
76 - Line Vedel (DNK) , Anastasia Kostina (RUS) , Maria Beautell (ESP) , Jade Schaeffer (FRA) , Titiya Plucksataporn (THA) , Maria Ohlsson (SWE) , Tandi Cuningham (ZAF) , Jessica Yadloczky (USA) , Esther Choe (USA) , Mianne Bagger (DNK) , Sara Djos (SWE)
77 - Caroline Rominger (CHE) , Cassandra Kirkland (FRA) , Ana Larraneta (ESP) , Kyra Van Leeuwen (NLD) , Laurette Maritz (ZAF) , Becky Brewerton (WAL) , Sofia Harkonen (FIN) , Henrietta Zuel (ENG) , Dawn Shockley (USA)
78 - Mary Mattson (USA) , Daniela Prorokova (CZE) , Lucy Williams (ENG)
79 - Nicole Gergely (AUT) , Barbara Genuini (FRA)
80 - Barbora Barcalova (CZE) , Kristyna Pavlickova (CZE)
81 - Katerina Krasova (CZE)
82 - Iliska Verwey (ZAF)
83 - Marie Lunackova (CZE) , Adriana Zwanck (ESP)
84 - Vera Shimanskaya (RUS)
85 - Sara Ardstrom (SWE)