The 22-year-old claimed four back-nine birdies as she signed for a five-under-par 68 to sit a stroke clear of a congested international leaderboard on her championship debut, rekindling her memories of playing the links as a young girl.
“I played here with some of the members when I was absolutely tiny,” recalled Hamilton from Notts Ladies. “So I don't remember the course having played it in practice yesterday and today – apart from the beach huts on the last. This is probably my best achievement in golf to date to be leading.”
Course record holder Amelia Williamson, fellow English player Roisin Scanlon – who went close in last year’s R&A Girls’ U16 Amateur at Enville – and Italian duo Emilie Alba Paltrinieri and Alessandra Fanali are one behind Hamilton. The quartet posted excellent four-under-par rounds of 69 as a 144-player field representing 24 countries gathered on a glorious day on the Norfolk coast.
Williamson is attached to nearby Sheringham GC but is also a member at Hunstanton where she is the women’s course record holder after returning a six-under score in 2020.
The English player was back on form on the links, helped by a back nine that yielded two birdies and an eagle at the 15th.
“I know it well,” she said of the venue. “But I don't get to come over here and play that much or as much as I would like. I would say the biggest advantage I have would be if the wind was to change. The wind today is exactly the same as it was yesterday in the practice round.”
Fanali, who lost in a three-way play-off to Morgane Metraux of Switzerland among professionals at the Ladies Italian Open on the Ladies European Tour earlier this month, also shone in the sun.
Of the morning starters who were faced with windier conditions, Paltrinieri displayed the form that has seen her shine in R&A championships in recent years. The 20-year-old won the Girls’ Amateur title in 2016 at Royal St David’s and also lost in the semi-finals of the Women’s Amateur in 2020.