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29th July 2016 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Simon leads SA onslaught in England

Mirim Lee of Korea during the first roundSouth Africa’s Ashleigh Simon offset a lone bogey with two birdies to open with a one-under-par 71 in the RICOH Women’s British Open at Woburn, while Olympic Games team-mate Paula Reto and LPGA winner Lee-Anne Pace carded a pair of 73s at the Marguess Course in Milton Keyes.

Mirim Lee shot a bogey-free round of 62 to take the first-round lead.

The 25-year old tied the tournament record set by Minea Blomqvist in the third round in 2004 and the round tied her career low which she previously shot in the second round of the 2014 Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship.

Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn – a three-time LPGA Tour winner this season – sits three shots back and in solo second at seven under.

China’s Shanshan Feng is in solo third at six -under par, and American Stacy Lewis and Mi Hyang Lee from South Korea are a stroke back tied for fourth.

This is Lee’s second appearance at the RICOH Women’s British Open and she is trying to improve on a missed cut in 2014.

She missed last year due to a thumb injury, the same left thumb she still tapes for preventative measures.

The Korean welcomed the non-links style track at Woburn.

“When you normally think of British Open, you think of high roughs, difficult roughs,” Lee said through an interpreter. “But here it feels more like California, so I think that really made me feel comfortable.”

Lee shot 64 in the first round at the last major – the U.S. Women’s Open – and held the first-round lead there as well before finishing outside of the top-10. She struggled at the start the season, with only one top-10 finish, two missed cuts and a withdrawal in her first seven starts. She missed the cut at the ANA Inspiration in March but followed up with solid finishes at the next two majors – a tie for fourth at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and T11 at the U.S. Women’s Open.

“I think the difference is that now I’m trying to have fun,” said Lee. “I’m trying to enjoy it, whereas in the beginning of the year, things weren’t really going well for me, so I really put a lot of work into it and I think it’s just natural that it’s showing, the hard work is showing now. It’s paying off now, yeah.”

PHOTO – Mirim Lee; credit Getty Images