Australian Nikki Campbell raced into a one stroke lead after a sensational tournament record of 63, nine under par, in the first round of the Sanya Ladies Open at Yalong Bay Golf Club in China.
Campbell fired nine birdies in a flawless round, coming home in 29 strokes to tie a 25-year-old all time record for the lowest nine hole score, held by 30 other players on the Ladies European Tour (LET).
The 33-year-old from Canberra produced the round of her life on a warm and benign afternoon in tropical Hainan to lead Korean Ye Na Chung by a stroke in the event tri-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour, China LPGA and Ladies’ Asian Golf Tour.
Campbell, who won two tournaments on the LPGA of Japan before coming through the LET’s Tour School last December, where she tied for second position, is officially a rookie on the Ladies European Tour, but she gained plenty of experience by playing in Japan for ten years.
After a disappointing run of results in Europe this year, she saw her Sydney-based coach Gary Barter for the first time in seven months over the recent tournament break and has immediately reaped the reward.
“I hadn’t had a lesson since before Morocco so it was nice to refresh what I was trying to do with my swing and have better direction with it,” Campbell said.
“I hit a lot of good iron shots. I had a lot of one or two metre birdie putts and fortunately they all went in. My short iron play was really good so I just had a lot of opportunities.”
|Nikki (right) and her boyfriend Damon (left) who is caddying for the last time in Sanya
Campbell received an invitation to play in the event and says that this is the last time that her boyfriend, golf professional Damon Welsford, will caddie for her as he is hoping to make it onto the European Tour.
“He said I have to play well to show that I like him caddying. Maybe today is a good start. He’s caddied for me for two years but we’re going to do something different.”
Seventh year professional Chung, who won her sole professional title at the Kangsan Century Championship on the Korean Dream Tour two years ago, made eight birdies in a career-best 64 to lie in second place.
The 25-year-old from Seoul said: “My putting was really good and I had confidence so I’ll take it. This course, I’m here for the first time so I’m not thinking; only thinking about hitting the ball straight.”
A further six players are a stroke back after opening rounds of 67, five under par. Sharing third place are Sweden’s Linda Wessberg, Frenchwoman Anne-Lise Caudal, England’s Charley Hull, South African Lee-Anne Pace and Chinese pair Xi Yu Lin and Yu Ting Shi, with eight players including the evergreen Briton Laura Davies, a further shot behind on four under par.