Bondad off to a flyer in China

Frances Bondad of Australia shot a five-under-par 67 on Friday to lead the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in Suzhou, China.

Frances Bondad of Australia shot a five-under-par 67 on Friday to lead the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in Suzhou, near Shanghai.

The 22-year-old from Greystanes in New South Wales led by one shot from Thailand’s Nontaya Srisawang and Christel Boeljon of the Netherlands.

Ireland’s Rebecca Coakley, Dewi-Claire Schreefel from the Netherlands and Scot Vikki Laing tied for fourth on 69.

Bondad started slowly with a three-putt bogey on the fifth hole, but fired six birdies at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club to rise above the rest of the field.

“It was very steady. I hit every single fairway and I made a lot of putts,” said Bondad, who tied for fifth at the 2009 event.

Her putting was exceptional and she sank monster putts on the eighth, ninth, 11th and 17th holes, but said: “It was just luck; luck and maybe a little bit of my practise as well.”

She chipped in from the fringe on the par-four 12th hole and holed a three-footer for birdie on 14.

The Los Angeles-born third year Ladies European Tour player is targeting her first victory on the tour after a career best tie for second at the Open de Espana Femenino last month.

She played in the more favourable afternoon conditions when there was less wind along with 23-year-old Boeljon, from Beverwijk and Srisawang, 23, from Chaing Mai.

Despite playing in relatively warm weather compared to the early starters, with highs of around 15°C, Srisawang was in shock from the cold. She said “That was one of the coldest days I’ve ever played and coming from Thailand it’s pretty different. I made four or five long putts and was lucky on the greens.”

Boeljon was more prepared coming from Europe and said: “I hit two bad shots and that resulted in two bogeys but other than that it was pretty solid. I just stuck to my game plan.”

Coakley’s form was also steady. The 29-year-old from Carlow was up at 4.20am for her 6.40am tee time and carded three birdies in a flawless round of 69.

“I think the key today was just having control of the golf ball. It was very windy but I just hit fairways and greens and a couple of greens that I did miss, I missed in the right places and it was relatively easy to make up and downs,” she said.

Like Bondad, she tied for fifth at the 2009 event and hopes to claim her first victory. “Obviously I’d love to win, but I just take each day as it comes. If I can play like I did today for the next two days, I think I’ll be in contention,” said Coakley, who was raised in Adelaide, Australia.

Laing, 29, from Musselburgh, was three under on the back nine, which she played first, but played the front nine in level par. She said: “I’m very happy with that and I would have taken it on the first tee.”

Fellow Scot Kylie Walker from Glasgow shared seventh place on 70 with Australian Nikki Garrett and the English trio of Florentyna Parker, Felicity Johnson and Sophie Walker.

Parker played in the misty, windy, morning conditions and had her first career hole-in-one at the par-three 14th. Her tee shot landed six metres short of the cup before finding its way into the hole.

“I hit a seven-iron very, very soft and it rolled in like a putt,” said 21-year-old Parker, the ABN AMRO Ladies Open champion who is a member at Royal Birkdale.

The second round begins at 6.30am on Saturday and there will be a cut to the leading 60 professional players and those tied at the completion of 36 holes.