COQUITLAM, B.C. — France’s Karine Icher made it look easy Thursday.
Icher birded seven of her first 11 holes to shoot a 7-under 65 and lead after the first round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open golf tournament.
“Golf should be simple,” said the native of Chateauroux, who now lives in Orlando, Fla. “Sometimes it’s not.”
The 36-year-old has never won on the LPGA Tour and hasn’t finished in the top 10 in an event this year. She does have five victories on the Ladies European Tour and has won over US$3.9 million.
Her score on the 6,681-yard, par-72 Vancouver Golf Club course was one off the women’s record of 64.
“My putting was very good,” she said. “Today I saw the hole bigger than other days.
“Sometimes you have days like that where everything works. I am quite happy. It’s not an easy course. You have to be very precise. The greens are fast and kind of hilly. It is a good challenge.”
Lydia Ko, a two-time Canadian Open winner, shot a 5-under 67 to sit alone in second.
A group that included Americans Stacy Lewis and Danah Bordner, I.K. Kim of South Korea and Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg were a stroke behind at 4 under.
Brooke Henderson, of Smiths Falls, Ont., was the top Canadian, carding two birdies on the back nine to finish 2 under.
It’s been a whirlwind few days for the 17-year-old Henderson. She was granted her Tour card on Tuesday after becoming the youngest Canadian to win an LPGA or PGA event with her victory last weekend at the Cambia Portland Classic.
“It was an amazing day today,” said Henderson, who attracted a large gallery. “The crowds were unbelievable.
“Just to be back home playing in front of them was unbelievable.”
Henderson ran into some trouble on the front nine when she bogeyed two holes but recovered on the back nine.
“Today was a little bit up and down but I was able to get it together a bit more on the back nine,” she said.
“If I can just continue to build off the crowd’s energy the next couple of days I think it will be good.”
Many of the greens on the course slope, making ball placement critical.
“The ball is releasing on the greens so you have to be careful where you are landing it, so you give yourself an uphill putt,” said Henderson.
“You want to stay below the hole.”
Alena Sharp, of Hamilton, was in a large group at 1 under.
“I hit a lot of greens,” said Sharp. “I hit a lot of good drives when I needed too.
“I just need to hit it closer to the hole. That is what I am going to work on tomorrow, get a little more subtle with my iron shots.”
Playing in Vancouver brought back some fond memories for Ko. She was a 15-year-old amateur when she won her first title on this same course.
“It’s a really solid start,” said the New Zealand golfer.
“I had the same score the last time I was here.
“It’s good to start off well and hopefully this will give me good momentum for the next couple of days.”
The tournament has a total purse of US$2.25 million. The winner collects $337,500.
Icher hopes to bring the same confidence into Friday’s second round as she did on the first day.
“When you make some birdies like that in a row you build some confidence,” she said.
“It’s good for everything.
“It’s always nice to have a round like that.”
Icher has earned just over US$234,000 this season and her best result was a tie for 11th place.
“It’s been average,” she shrugged. “It always can be better.
“I am still looking for a good result. Hopefully this is the week.”