Reigning champion Kanyalak Preedasuttiji admits she was so nervos she could hardly breathe as she began her defence.
2018 champion Kaynalak and 2017’s inaugural winner Atthaya excelled in the highly humid conditions to be tied for third with four others, including two fellow Thais, Onkanok Soisuwan and 18-year-old Kultida Pramphun, plus Felicity Johnson of England and Beth Allen of the USA.
Sweden’s Lina Boqvist holds the first-round lead after a 67, one clear of Germany’s Olivia Cowan.
The 21-year-old Kanyalak admitted she had butterflies in her stomach as she strode to the first tee as reigning champion.
However, she quickly brushed aside them to fire three straight birdies – on her second, third and fourth holes – and then went to four-under at her ninth, before carding her one bogey on the next hole.
“I was unable to breathe at the start,” said Kanyalak, now a full member of the Ladies European Tour following her victory last year.
“But I tried to get a grip and focus on my game plan. My parents followed me all day to show their support, which really helped.”
Phoenix Gold is the home course of the Chon Buri-based Kanyalak and she had spent nearly two weeks practising on it in preparation.
“Three under at the start is not so bad as this course is not easy,” she said. “I will try to have fun out there and hope a Thai will win again this year.”
Atthaya, who set the record as the tour’s youngest ever winner at only 14 years 4 months and 19 days old when she lifted the trophy in 2017, had to skip last year’s tournament to prepare for the Asian Games but was happy with her solid return.
“I have good memories here and I didn’t feel any pressure at all. I’m still young and have so much more to improve,” said Atthaya, who said she had been affected after playing for four straight weeks.
“I moved a bit slow at the beginning as I was bit tired,” she said. “This year I’m just hoping to finish in the top 10 as I’m still adjusting to a new swing, which will take time.”
Fellow teenager Kultida Pramphun was not entirely satisfied despite joining her on 69.
“I’m a bit unhappy with my form but the good thing is I still managed to fight my way back from tough positions,” said Kultida, who won her first title, the SAT Thai LPGA event in Nakhon Nayok in April, straight after turning professional.
“I made a wrong decision with my iron in the last hole [where she carded a bogey], otherwise it would have been a better round.”
Lina Boqvist carded seven birdies on her way tpo the first-round lead
Boqvist, 28, the sixth-ranked player on the LET, fired six birdies before stumbling with back-to-back bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes. Crucially, she recovered to card a seventh birdie on the par-three 14th to edge ahead of the field.
“It was a very good start as I was four-under after six and five-under after nine. I played quite solidly on the last nine but didn’t make as many putts,” said the winner of the 2014 Onsjo Ladies Open on the LET Access Series.
“The course is in great shape but you need to keep the ball on the fairways and greens as the rough is quite tough.”
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