Olivia Cowan shot a career-best seven under par 65 to take a slim lead after the first round of the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España Femenino.
The seventh ranked Ladies European Tour player is one clear of the order of merit leader, Marianne Skarpnord, at Aloha Golf Club in Marbella, where the penultimate event of the 2019 season is under way.
“It’s not every day you shoot seven-under, but I knew I was playing well,” said Cowan. “It was solid and I was two-under on the front nine, so I was trying to stay patient. The second nine went very well, and I holed out (for an eagle) on hole 12.”
Cowan, the LET Access Series order of merit winner with three titles on that tour in 2015, is still searching for her first win on the LET and she said: “It’s so close, I can feel it! Hopefully it will come soon. I’ve just got to stay patient and let it happen.”
Marianne Skarpnord limped round during her 66, then took her shoes off during her post-round interview to relieve the pain.
“I’ve had a shoe issue all year, so I think I might be on my sixth or seventh pair of shoes and this week I’ve got blisters,” she said, before exposing her heels to demonstrate.
“I played well today though and hit all the fairways, which is not normal for me, so I’m quite happy with that.”
The LET order of merit leader admitted that winning the season-long points’ race was on her mind at the beginning of the week, with two events to be played, in Spain and Kenya, but she gave herself a pep talk.
“Last night I thought, you’re not going to play better thinking about it, so I decided that I’d pretend I’m fourth or fifth and I’m chasing someone… so I don’t know who’s at the top!”
Christina Kim lies in third spot after a morning round of 67 and she said afterwards: “I played pretty well today. Missed a few shots, missed a few putts, but that’s pretty typical of me.
“I played solidly and did my best to avoid any big numbers out there. This course is tricky in that you have to position yourself right. It can be a 310-metre hole, but you can find trouble if you don’t play smart. I did that pretty well today. I just hit one putt eight feet by and missed it on the way back. I couldn’t think of a better place to finish my 2019 season than at this tournament in Spain.”
Anne Van Dam has taken her driver out of her bag this week and Kim, who played with the defending champion, admitted that Van Dam was hitting her 3-wood 20 yards further than her drives.
However, the long-hitting Dutchwoman ended the day one stroke behind Kim, in a share of fourth with Karolin Lampert and Cheyenne Woods on four under par.
Van Dam had an eagle on the 487-yard par-5 16th, which was almost an albatross. After hitting her 3-wood off the tee, she played a 6-iron to tap-in distance from 180 metres to the pin. However, she didn’t give herself the easiest putts all day.
Van Dam said: “It was a nice calm morning and I hit it well off the tee. I only missed one fairway, by a yard, but towards the green I could have been sharper, but overall, it was a solid day.”
Julia Engstrom, Maha Haddioui, Kylie Henry and Emma Nilsson shot 69s to round out the top 10. Round two begins at 8.15am on Friday.