Martina Gillen is just four shots off the lead after the opening round of the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
As Australian Kristie Smith fired a sizzling five under par 67 in scorching conditions to take a two-stroke lead over Anne-Lise Caudal, Caroline Masson and Klara Spilkova, Gillen hit a one under 71 to share fifth place.
Smith, who earned her maiden LET victory at the Pegasus New Zealand Women’s Open a month ago, continued her fine run of form with six birdies and one bogey on a hot and windy morning at Golf du Soleil in Agadir where temperatures topped 36F.
She said: “I don’t think anyone was expecting the wind to be up like it was this morning and it’s hot as well. It’s definitely difficult out there and five under was a pretty good round.
“I got off to a pretty rough start, bogeyed the first, but hung in there and made quite a few good putts. I feel confident in my swing and everything that’s going well with my golf game but mentally I feel a bit under pressure. Obviously winning the last event and just things going on back home, I really want to play well this week.”
While Tara Delaney managed a four over 76, it was a day to forget for the rest of the Irish hopefuls with Rebecca Codd (nee Coakley) taking 81 and Hazel Kavanagh an 84.
Lalla Meryem Cup, Golf du Soleil, Agadir, Morocco
67 - Kristie Smith (AUS)
69 - Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA), Caroline Masson (GER), Klara Spilkova (CR)
71 - Zuzana Kamasova (SVK), Martina Gillen (IRE), Carin Koch (SWE), Sarah Kemp (AUS)
72 - Cassandra Kirkland (FRA), Ana Larraneta (ESP), Georgina Simpson (ENG), Caroline Hedwall (SWE), Kylie Walker (SCO), Emma Cabrera-Bello (ESP), Helena Blomberg (SWE), Anna Rossi (ITA), Charlotte Ellis (Am) (ENG)
76 Tara Delaney (IRE), Carmen Alonso (ESP)
80 Alison Walshe (USA)
81 Rebecca Codd (IRE)
84 Hazel Kavanagh (IRE)