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Good start for Skarpnord in Morocco
March 28, 2013

Marianne Skarpnord
Marianne Skarpnord on day one at the Lalla Meryem Cup.

Marianne Skarpnord made a perfect start at the Lalla Meryem Cup as she carded a five under par 66 at a blustery Golf de l‘Océan in Agadir on Thursday.

First round leader Marianne Skarpnord at the Pro Am party with boyfriend Richard Green

The Norwegian, a joint runner-up at Golf de l'Océan last year, fired a five under par 66 in breezy conditions to end the morning a stroke clear of South African rookie Melissa Eaton.

Although the course was bathed in sunshine, a fierce breeze was blowing in from the western coast making conditions tougher than expected.

“It’s so windy today. Yesterday was so nice,” said Skarpnord, 27, from Sarpsborg. “I feel the score was fairly good. I played well today and my putter was working until I reached the 15th. I three putted there but besides that I played nicely.”

Skarpnord, a two-time Ladies European Tour winner, carded four birdies on the front nine and picked up two more shots at 11 and 13 before dropping her only shot of the day on the 15th.

While she was tearing up the course at Golf de l’Océan, her boyfriend Richard Green carded a 75 in the Trophée Hassan II being played on the nearby Golf du Palais Royal.

Rookie Eaton was five under with three to play but bogeyed the par-3 16th. She is riding a wave of confidence having collected her maiden title as a professional at Florida’s Natural Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour in the United States last week.

The 28-year-old, originally from Port Shepstone, who currently resides in Louisiana, said: “I just hit it really, really solidly today and hit a lot of greens which helped me because I had to make some pars and let the birdies happen. I made one bogey today so I’m happy about that in these conditions.

“On the one hole I miss hit a wedge shot and then I ended up holing a chip shot. On another hole I actually hit into the hazard with my ball in between some rocks and ended up on a nice fluffy piece of grass, so I got away with that one too. Overall it was just a really fun experience. It’s my first event out on the Ladies European Tour so I’m excited to be here and to play solid my first round.”

Next best in the clubhouse on three under was young Briton Charley Hull, 17, who made a blistering start with four birdies in her first six holes. However she came back in one over after bogey on the 12th.

Although Hull played a warm-up event on the LET Access Series last week, this is her first start on the LET since turning professional in December.

She said: “It feels good. I played in quite a few events as an amateur last year but I was a little bit nervous, but I just went out there and played.

“I said to my dad at the beginning of the round, I’d be happy with four under but three under is not bad because it was very windy out there today.”

Impressive Thai rookie Ariya Jutanugarn, also 17, was a shot back on two under par alongside England’s Sophie Walker with four further players from the morning session at one under par.

There are 38 rookies in this week’s field, many of whom are making their professional debuts on the Ladies European Tour. Most will feel comfortable in the Moroccan setting as the Lalla Aicha Tour School was played in similar conditions in Marrakech in December. Jutanugarn won the Final Stage of Tour School, but she feels that Golf de l’Ocean’s tree-lined fairways are a little too narrow for her powerful drives.

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