|Australian LET Rookie Nikki Campbell
Amid the strongest women’s golf field ever assembled in New Zealand, three lesser known players from Australia lead the way after the opening round of the ISPS Handa NZ Open hosted by Christchurch.
Tamara Johns, Nikki Campbell and Sarah Oh share the lead on three-under par 69, all playing in the morning although it proved far from still conditions at Clearwater Golf Club.
New Zealand favourite Lydia Ko, the World’s No 1 ranked amateur, found no favours on the greens today but still managed a two-under par 70 to share fourth place with American Alison Walshe and Thailand’s Nontayn Srisawang, who three-putted the last hole.
Most interest centred on the 15-year-old Ko, who was paired in the glamour group with World No 19 Angela Stanford (USA) and Europe’s No 1 Carlota Ciganda (Spain). While the Kiwi left a number of chances unfulfilled from close range with the flat stick, she was the pick of the group mixing five birdies with three dropped shots.
“I definitely could have played better I think, but the scores aren’t that crazy low today. I think that’s because of the wind,” said the Gulf Harbour golfer.
“The wind was quite a surprise because we were playing in the morning and expected it to be pretty still. I think it’s a pretty solid score in this wind.”
Johns, who has returned to the sport after a two year break, plied her trade on Europe’s development tour last year. Campbell has enjoyed success in Japan but is now heading to Europe this year while Oh, a former New South Wales Open winner, is focussed on her golf in Korea.
All three started off the 10th hole, with Campbell firing five birdies and two bogeys, Johns mixed six birdies, a bogey and a double bogey in her round while Oh had four birdies and a solitary dropped shot at the 17th.
“It is a good thing to shoot a good score with the winds up. Hopefully tomorrow afternoon it will help me get use to some of the conditions,” Campbell said.
“It is unfortunate that the morning players did not get the advantage of the still conditions but it is the same for everyone and you never know, it might blow tomorrow morning.
“But it is only one round so I am not getting too carried away. I am just pleased to play well in the wind.”
|LET member Tamara Johns
Johns recognised her efforts in the conditions on a testing course.
“Fairways and greens are the key to playing around here,” Johns said. “The conditions were rough. I was surprised that it was so windy so early. When we left the house it was blowing and we were hoping that it would calm down a little. When we turned the corner it was just nasty on the front nine.
“I am not surprised that the scoring isn’t lower. It is pretty tough out there and it is the sort of course that punishes you if you hit poor shots.
“I love coming to New Zealand. I have played the last couple at Pegasus and I have great hosts this week and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Four players share seventh place on one-under 71 comprising Giulia (Italy), Felicity Johnson (England), Julieta Granada (Paraguay) and Sarah Jane Smith (Australia).
Of the big names who struggled today, the major winners both from Sweden, Sophie Gustafson and Anna Nordqvist shot 78 and 79 respectively while the tournament’s top ranked player, American Stanford had to settle for a six-over 78.
There was one bright note for Sweden’s Karin Sjodin who scored a hole in one at the par-3 16th hole in her round of four-over 76.
There is a cut for the top 50 professionals and ties after tomorrow’s second round to contest the final round of the 54-hole championship on Sunday.