Edinburgh-based Beth Allen rediscovered her sparkling 2016 form to set the pace in the Oates Vic Open in Australia, where she was joined in getting off to a promising start by Kylie Henry.
Allen won twice on the Ladies European Tour two years ago as she became the first American to top the money-list on that circuit but went off the boil last season.
However, she was back to her best in carding a six-under-par 67 to take a one-shot lead over compatriot Cheyenne Woods at 13th Beach Golf Links near Melbourne.
Due to their late arrival from the LPGA’s season-opening tournament in the Bahamas, neither Allen or Woods had played a practice round for the £370,000 event.
“It’s been kind of crazy because I only arrived yesterday morning and I didn’t have tons of expectations, which is usually good, when you’re playing golf,” admitted Allan after signing for a bogey-free effort. “I woke up and said ‘let’s see what happens’.”
The 36-year-old, who missed the cut in the Bahamas, has four-time LET Order of Merit winner
Sophie Gustafson back on her bag after the pair had a break last season.
“It’s great to have Sophie on the bag again and I had visions of 2016, which was awesome,” added Allen, who finished birdie-birdie on the Creek Course. “We had a lot of fun out there, so I’m looking forward to the next few days.”
Woods, Tiger’s niece, was also pleased with her day’s work, especially after she arrived at the venue on Wednesday before her clubs.
“I’m really happy with how I played today,” said the 2014 Ladies Australian Masters champion. “It was my first time seeing the golf course, so it was nice to be able to make a few putts and give myself opportunities.”
Sweden’s Camilla Lennarth is a stroke further back while Henry sits joint-fourth after she opened with a three-under 70 on the Beach Course.
That effort was matched by England’s Georgia Hall, the 2016 winner and last season’s European No 1, on the Creek Course.
Both playing the Beach Course, Carly Booth opened with a 73 to sit joint-27th but Michele Thomson had to settle for a 77 and is sharing 89th spot.
The Oates Vic Open is the only tournament of its kind in the world where the men’s and women’s fields compete on the same courses, at the same time, for an equal share of the prize money.
“I love it,” said Allan of the format. “I think that it’s great for spectators and I hope that this event inspires other events, because it’s awesome.”