Alison Walshe fired a flawless, 6-under 66 on Friday to grab the first-round lead Down Under at the Ladies Masters tourney.
The fourth-year LPGA pro has yet to win since earning her tour card in 2010, but with surgical precision that included a run of four straight birdies as she made the turn, the pride of Westford, Mass., carved up the RACV Royal Pines Resort on Australia’s Gold Coast to take a one-stroke lead over fellow American, Jessica Korda.
Starting her round on the 10th tee, Walshe made five pars before going on a birdie tear and posting a first-nine 32. The 27-year-old birdied the third and eighth holes coming in.
“I put a lot of work into my off-season,” Walshe told reporters following her round in the season-opener for the Australian Ladies Professional Golf and Ladies European Tours. “I felt really confident.”
Despite the relatively slow speeds of the green, Walshe credited her putting with getting her to the top of the leaderboard.
“I have been putting a lot of work into that. [The greens were] pretty slow so I just had to really give it a firm hit,” she said. “I made a lot of good putts, so I was happy with that.”
Korda, last year’s Australian Open winner and daughter of 1998 Aussie Open tennis champ Petr Korda, finished with no bogeys as well.
"I feel really good in Australia,” she said. “There's something about it that makes me feel really at home.”
Karrie Webb, holder of seven major titles, was playing on home turf and will head into Saturday’s second round four shots off the pace. Other big names in the field include 2011 U.S. Women’s Open titleholder So Yeon Ryu, two-time Women’s British Open winner Jiyai Shin, and four-time major champion Laura Davies.
Tiger Woods’ niece Cheyenne Woods, in her second season as a professional, shot 74.
As for Walshe, she hoped to cap her first event of the 2013 season with that long-sought first W.
“I have [led tournaments early] before,” she said, “but with a few more years of experience I hope I can capitalize on this and close it out."
The LPGA will kick off its season in two weeks with the Women’s Australian Open at the Royal Canberra Golf Club.