New Delhi: France’s Gwladys Nocera struck red-hot form as she scorched the Delhi Golf Club course to return a card of nine-under 64 in the opening round of the $ 300,000 Hero Women’s Indian Open, tri-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour (LET), the Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT) and the Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI) here on Thursday. Nocera, 39, set a new one-day course record bettering Gauri Monga’s five under which the Indian golfer set in the second round of the 2010 Delhi Ladies Open.
However, the revelation of the day was India’s Vaishavi Sinha. The young golfer from Noida, who turned pro earlier this year, finished the first round on a high with a score of six-under 67 that puts her in tied second spot alongside Holly Clyburn of Belgium. Playing only in her sixth pro tournament in India, Sinha sunk in nine birdies, but bogies on 10th, 13th and 16th pulled her score down in the final count. She too bettered Monga’s four-year-old course record.
Playing on the narrow tree-lined course that puts a heavy premium on accuracy, Nocera landed her tee shots in perfect spots on the fairways, which helped her to find the pins with relative ease. Her blemish-free scorecard for the day reflected her precise club play as she sunk a total of nine birdies of which five came in the front nine and four in the back nine. With 12 wins on the Ladies European Tour, the French golfer is looking on course to chalk up her first victory on Indian soil.
“It was a really good day. I hit the ball well, close to the pin and it’s really nice to start the tournament like this. I didn’t think about my score, just each shot and where to hit the shot, which spot is safe and try to play smart. The course is tricky, there are some difficult shots to hit but everything went well. I was reading the greens well, with the help of my caddie, we both worked on the lines together. It was not windy this morning, so it was okay. The course is in great condition and suits me. You have to be accurate with everything because it’s pretty narrow. Off the tees is the first thing and then you have to hit the greens. The greens are nice and get quicker during the day with the heat. They were pure this morning,” said Nocera after returning to the clubhouse.
Sinha credits her string of good performances in the tournaments in the run up to the Hero Women’s Indian Open to the experience gleaned from playing in the Symetra Tour, which is the feeder series to the LPGA. “Of course, the experience of playing in the US has helped me today,” said Sinha. Though she had an average iron game, it was her putting that stood out resulting in four back-to-back birdies in the first four holes, with another five spread over 9th, 11th 14th, 17th and 18th. “I felt that my putting today was above average, but I was struggling with my iron game. I hooked a few shots when there was no need and this resulted in bogies. I will try to sort out my iron play overnight. I want to thank my caddie, who was really good at reading the lines. The greens also played true. During practice I felt quite confident,” said Sinha.
With Gauri Monga, Shewta Galande and Sharmila Nicollet finishing the first round in tied fifth at three-under 70, the leaderboard looks pretty top-heavy with Indians. Defending Hero Women’s Indian Open champion, Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand, too is lying in tied fifth place. Adopting a conservative approach, Suwannapura, sunk in five birdies along with two bogies.