After the biblical overnight deluge, the weather gods chose to brighten the skies and dispatch the dark clouds elsewhere.
“Blessed,” is how Leona Maguire described the conditions for the first round of the KPMG Women’s Irish Open, although the world number 18 – playing for a fourth straight week and fighting off jetlag after crossing eight time zones from Oregon to Co Clare – was responsible for her own fine effort in overcoming a shaky start to get straight into contention in this rebirth of the tournament after a 10 year absence from the LET schedule.
A couple of hot streaks with the putter in hand was primarily the factor in the 27-year-old Cavan golfer signing for a five-under-par 67 that put her into tied-fifth after an exciting first day, two strokes behind co-leaders Alexandra Swayne of the US Virgin Islands and Sweden’s Lina Boqvist.
“To win your national open is a big honour, probably just below some of the Majors I would say and Pádraig has done it, Rory has done it, Shane has done it. A lot of the guys have done it, so it would be nice to give the home fans something to cheer about come Sunday but there is a long way to go yet,” said Maguire of her start while showing an awareness of the long road to lifting the trophy that last had the name of Catriona Matthew engraved on it back in 2012
As it happened, Matthew, technically the defending champion, along with up-and-coming Spanish player Ana Pelaez Trivino, who showed her youthful enthusiasm by carrying her own bag, was grouped with Maguire. No strangers, of course. Matthew was Europe’s captain for last year’s Solheim Cup where Maguire emerged as the star of the show in downing the Americans.
Here, on home terrain, Maguire was very much the star attraction as the sun broke through in timely fashion for her to get underway. The start, however, was not what she – nor the galleries – expected: a pulled approach to the first finished in left greenside rough, with a difficult downhill chip to the flag. Maguire’s attempted bladed chip caught up in the grass, failing to reach the slope that would take the ball down to the green. An opening bogey five.
Maguire gave a hint of how the putter would be her main weapon when, on the third, she rolled in a 20-footer for the first of seven birdies in her round. A dropped shot on the fifth, after finding a fairway bunker off the tee, was followed by a hot run that transformed her round: a chip and putt from short of the green on the par five sixth for a birdie; a 25-footer on the par three seventh for another, and then a hat-trick when sinking an 18-footer.
She then showed great patience until finally getting the chance to finish strongly, hitting a three-wood tee-shot on the drivable downhill par four 15th to 15 feet – the eagle putt refusing to drop but tapping in for the birdie – and then sinking a 12-footer for birdie on the par five 16th. Maguire then finished her day’s work with a closing birdie on the 18th, where she hit a five-hybrid from 182 yards to 18 feet and two-putting from the top tier.
“I didn’t have my best game today but you can always save it when you putt well and I’ll get the driving straightened out and go again. There’s a good mix of holes, some really good chances, it’s a bit shorter than we play on the LPGA [Tour]. Golf is all about momentum, it doesn’t take much for it to go, a bounce her or there and a putt here and there, so it was nice to get those three birdies in a row on the front and hopefully the putter will stay warm for the rest of the week,” said Maguire.
Irish amateur international Aideen Walsh, a schoolteacher in nearby Ennis, also produced a strong first round – 17 straight pars and a closing birdie for 71, one-under-par – that matched her playing partner Caroline Hedwall, a Solheim Cup veteran, and outscored the third member of the group, Manon De Roey, a tour winner earlier this year: “When I was warming up I was like, ‘I’m so happy that we’re getting going now’ because I’ve been putting in loads of work that last few weeks with the build-up. It’s always nice just to get going and get round one done, see how you’re getting on and move onto the next one.”
There was also a hole-in-one for teenager Marina Joyce Moreno, who aced the 161 yards 13th with a five iron in a round of 74. “I saw it flying right on line and land three metres before the flag and disappeared,” said the 16-year-old of her first ever competitive hole-in-one.
1st round scores (Irish unless stated, * denotes amateur)
65 – A Swayne (ISV), L Boqvist (Swe)
66 – A Dimmock (Eng), K Spilkova (Cze), A-L Caudal (Fr)
67 – E Arvidsson (Swe), G Cowley (Eng), C Wolf (Aut), A Van Dam (Neth), Leona Maguire, C Williams (Wal), M Thomson (Scot)
68 – Olivia Cowan (Ger), J Gustavsson (Swe), M Skarpnord (Nor), N Garcia (RSA), C Gainer (Eng), M Sangkapong (Thai)
69 – L Beveridge (Scot), K Henry (Scot),U Wikstrom (Fin), S Bringner (Swe), S Tarning Soenderby (Den), A Meyssonnier (Fr), M Martin (Sp), C Alonso (Sp)
70 –N Broch Estrup (Den), L Harm (Ger), P Babnik (Slo), C Alexander (RSA), H Burke (Eng), T Koivisto (Fin), M Folke (Swe), S Schober (Aut), K Lund (Nor), J Melichova (Cze), M MacLaren (Eng), A Pelaez Trivino (Sp), C Chevalier (Fr), L Wessberg (Swe), R Davies (Eng), H Davis (Eng), L Osala (Fin)
71 – M Smit (RSA), L Grant (Swe), L Young (Eng), *Aideen Walsh, C Hedwall (Swe), L Pettersson (Swe), L Lewthwaite (RSA), G Iziemgbe Oboh (Ngr), T Melecka (Cze), M Prat (Sp), H Macgarvie (Scot), M Perez (Sp), A Hewson (Eng), B Morgan (Wal), M Simmermacher (Arg), B Brewerton (Wal), J Karlsson (Swe), F Johnson (Eng), L Sobron Galmes (Sp), H Lee (Sp), F Parker (Eng), S Gee (Eng), A Sauzon (Fr)
72 – D Sverdloff (Eng), H Tamy Kreuzer (Ger), N Komulainen (Fin), A Maggetti (Swit), V Kapoor (Ind), K Napoleaova (Cze) C Matthew (Scot), E Folch (Sp), V Carta (It), D Dagar (Ind), S Witt (Ger)
73 – R Goodall (Eng), L Malchirand (Fr), M Gidali (Fr), N Dlamini (Swaz), E Grechi (Fr), P Marfa Sans (Sp), M Hernandez (Sp), L Gomez Ruiz (Sp), T Malik (Ind), W Hillier (Aus), L Ras-Anderica (Ger), E Price (Eng), K Lampert (Ger), S Bregman (RSA), J Nyqvist (Swe)
74 – M Bing Paulsen (Nor), F Friedrich (Ger), *Rebekah Gardner, M De Roey (Bel), L-M Humphreys (Eng), L Taylor (Eng), E Penttila (Fin), K Pogacar (Slo), M Stavnar (Nor), *Marina Joyce Moreno, A Drall (Ind)
75 – E Tukiainen (Fin), I Deilert (Swe), T Martin (Eng), *Kate Lanigan, T Johnson (Eng), G Blackman (Eng), M Haddioui (Mor), E Nummenpaa (Fin)
76 – L Duncan (Scot), V Gimmy (Ger), J Turner (Scot), R Taylor (Scot)
77 – L Fuenfstueck (Ger), C Liautier (Fr), G Macdonald (Scot), *Katie Poots
78 – L Hall (Wal), L Dittrich (Ger)
79 – E Hualde (Sp), *Olivia Costello
80 – Victoria Craig, A-C Mora (Fr)
84 – P Coffa (Neth)