She held the clubhouse lead for most of the day, in fact, following a seven-under-par 65 at Ayla Golf Club before flying Dutchman Daan Huizing partially stole her limelight as he claimed top spot.
MacLaren’s effort meant she outscored 82 male rivals in the groundbreaking mixed gender event where players from three separate circuits – the Ladies European Tour, Challenge Tour and Staysure (Seniors) Tour – are battling it out for the same prize over 54 holes.
“Given everything I’ve talked about over the last few months, it is nice to back it up,” said MacLaren, a double medallist at last year’s European Team Championships at Gleneagles. “But I didn’t want to put any extra pressure on myself. I’ve been saying to everybody that the girls’ standard of play will show if the course is set up properly. I’m just happy with how I’ve played and, if that puts me near the top against the guys, then that’s just a bonus, really.”
That set-up is seeing players tackle the Greg Norman-designed course from different tees. The rising male stars of the Challenge Tour face a 7,100-yard course, the over-50s from the Staysure Tour 6,601 yards and LET players 6,139 yards.
In a great display of golf, MacLaren reeled off eight birdies as she maintained the sort of form that saw the 23-year-old from Northamptonshire successfully defended her Women’s New South Wales Open title last month.
“I drove the ball really well and that took most of the danger out of play,” she added. “I think I could have had a couple more at the end there, but you can’t argue with that.”
It was a day’s work that also put a smile on her dad David’s face – and not just for the obvious reason. In his role as the European Tour’s deputy chief operating officer and head of the Staysure Tour, he was involved in setting up the event. “Quite apart from personal interest and looking at this objectively in terms of our aims, I think the leader board is shaping up absolutely beautifully and, dare I say it, for those of us who know a little bit about golf, not just on one of the tours, but on all three tours, I don’t think this is unexpected,” he said.
“I think you’ve got great players across all three tours and you’ve got a spread of players within each tour and the overlap of that will produce a cross section of very, very good golf. I think if you look at the way the world has suddenly noticed this tournament this week, I think that shows us what the future of golf can and should be like.”
On-form Carly Booth also fared well on the opening day with a two-under 70 that contained four birdies, leaving her sitting in a tie for 26th as Ewen Ferguson, who is flying the Challenge Tour flag, fared best of the Scottish contingent with a 68 to lie joint 11th. First-day bragging rights in the Henry household, meanwhile, went to Scott with a 71, three shots better than his wife, Kylie.
Huizing, a former St Andrews Links Trophy winner, carded nine birdies to lead by one from both MacLaren and Jack Senior, the 2015 Scottish Challenge champion.