September 20, 2018: Céline Herbin from France leads the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open in Spain after a blistering opening round of nine-under-par 62 at Club de Golf Terramar in Sitges on Thursday. Aditi Ashok made a strong start, firing a spotless 66 including four birdies on the back nine. The Indian is in fourth place, behind Anne Van Dam (64) and Carly Booth (65).
With two eagles and five birdies on her card, Herbin holds a two stroke advantage over Dutchwoman Anne Van Dam, with Scotland’s Carly Booth a stroke further back in third place and Aditi Ashok from India in fourth.
“You never expect a round like that. You just play hole by hole and you see what happens,” said the 2015 Lacoste Ladies Open champion, who bettered her previous best round of 64, carded in the final round of last year’s Dubai Ladies Classic.
“I had good feelings this morning on the range. I played well, only missed one green and one fairway. I had two eagles in the same round, so that’s nice. I had a couple of putts ending just out of the hole, so it would have been lower, but it was almost perfect.
“It was a general good feeling. I think my driving was very consistent and powerful and I could pick out the good side of the fairway to have a better angle to the green. My mental game was very good and I was relaxed and taking it easy. Whatever my score, in my mind I was still even and trying to make as many birdies as I could.”
Playing in scorching conditions, with temperatures at 28C, Van Dam set the target with a seven-under-par 65, which included eight birdies. The 2016 Xiamen International Ladies Open champion combined her long drives with accurate iron play.
“I played really well, especially my irons. I hit it close and had a lot of perfect numbers and perfect shots. Out of eight birdies, five of them were inside five feet, so that was easy,” she said.
“I’ve worked so hard on my iron game, because my driving game has been good, then I get to 120 metres and don’t give myself a chance, so we’ve really worked hard on that the last few months to dial that in and I’m really happy with how that went. Staying patient with my putting is probably the hardest thing, because I hit so many greens and get so many chances. Even today I felt that a few more could have dropped, but I’m not going to complain at all.”
Booth, a two-time winner on the LET six years ago, birdied her last three holes for another solid performance, following on from her 11th place finish in the Lacoste Ladies Open de France a fortnight ago.
She said afterwards: “I played solid from tee to green and holed some putts. It was great to have Celine as a playing partner as she played so solid and it pushed me on.
“My only goal the last couple of weeks has been to enjoy myself and commit to things. Sometimes those five inches between your ears can take over. I’ve been out here for nearly nine years now and I’ve learned a lot. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to perform and it doesn’t work so you have to at some point find another way. It’s been a tough year but my game has never been far away. It’s always been close but it’s trying to find that little switch I needed to turn on to start scoring during tournament rounds.”
There was a sombre mood across the golf course as play was suspended and the competitors gathered around the 15th green for a minute’s silence at midday, in honour of Celia Barquín Arozamena, the Spanish golfer who was murdered in Iowa on Monday.
Spain’s Azahara Muñoz, who shares fifth place with eight others on four-under-par, said that she was playing for Celia. “I told myself that this week I’m going to fight for every shot because unfortunately she is not going to be able to do it anymore, so I think we are all going to play for her this week.”