Italian amateur Carolina Melgrati made four birdies and an eagle on the back nine to shoot a 7-under 65 and join three men in a tie for the lead at the Scandinavian Mixed event on the European tour on Thursday.
Scotland’s Craig Howie, France’s Matthieu Pavon and Spain’s Santiago Tarrio were the others in a share of first place after the first round at Halmstad Golf Club in southern Sweden. None of them have a professional win and Tarrio, at No. 194, is the highest-ranked player of the trio.
It is the second staging of an event that sees 78 men and 78 women play on the same course — though off different tees — for one prize fund and one trophy.
“For us,” English golfer Meghan MacLaren said, “we have spent so long in the shadows over the past however many years. And just to have people come along and go, ‘We think you are worth the same as the men, we think it is worthwhile rewarding you in the same way for your level of play,’ it means a lot to the girls to have that level of recognition.”
Melgrati, who was born in Milan and attends the University of Arizona, made the most of her opportunity in the limelight by making birdie on her first two holes and then going birdie-eagle to start the back nine. She finished with three birdies in her last five holes.
“It is crazy — it is so great,” Melgrati said. “As soon as I got the invitation, I said, ‘Yes, I’m playing,’ because it is great to compete with professional golfers.
“It is amazing and that is also my dream, so it is coming true.”
A group of four players one shot off the lead after rounds of 66 contained two female players in Liz Young and Linn Grant, who is from Sweden and impressed playing alongside compatriot Annika Sorenstam — one of the country’s greatest-ever golfers who this week is also acting as tournament host with another Swede, Henrik Stenson.
Sorenstam shot 74 and Stenson, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, shot 70.
Howie was the first of the leaders to finish after a bogey-free round containing seven birdies.
“It is going to be really difficult for the people setting it up to make it fair for both,” the No. 416-ranked Howie said of the course set-up. “It is a different style of golf that we play from the women, but I do think this golf course is a perfect mix for both and I think it sets up well for us and the women.
“There couldn’t really be a better venue.”