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Birdie blitz puts Leona Maguire in the hunt at Irish Women's Open

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Leona Maguire hits a shot on the 18th hole during the opening round of the KPMG Women’s Irish Open in Dromoland Castle. Photo: Brian Arthur

Leona Maguire hits a shot on the 18th hole during the opening round of the KPMG Women’s Irish Open in Dromoland Castle. Photo: Brian Arthur

Leona Maguire hits a shot on the 18th hole during the opening round of the KPMG Women’s Irish Open in Dromoland Castle. Photo: Brian Arthur

Leona Maguire said that winning the KPMG Women’s Irish Open would be just one rung below a Major after she holed over 100 feet of putts in a five-under 67 to lurk just two shots off the lead at Dromoland Castle.

The world number 18 got off to a slow start with a bogey at the first, but while she would drop another shot at the fifth, she sprinkled in seven birdies — including three in a row from the sixth and three in her last four holes — to end the day tied for sixth.

The US Virgin Islands’ Alexandra Swaine and Sweden’s Lina Boqvist fired seven-under-par 65s to lead by a shot from England’s Annabel Dimmock, the Czech Republic’s Klara Spilkova and France’s Anne-Lise Caudal.

But Maguire (27) was pleased to shake off her jet lag following a long-haul flight from the US west coast last week and keep the leaders in her sights.

“It was a little scrappy in places today, (I) didn’t drive the ball as well as I would have liked but putted really nicely,” said Maguire, who bogeyed the first and followed a two at the third with another bogey at the fifth before finding her stride.

She made an eight-footer at the sixth, a 25-footer at the seventh and a 20-footer at the eighth to turn in two-under, then made a 14-footer at the par-five 15th, two-putted for birdie at the 248-yard 16th and two-putted again at the 18th after a laser-like 182-yard five-hybrid to 30 feet.

“The greens were rolling really well considering all the rain and an afternoon tee time, so I just rolled it really well today, took advantage of the shorter holes, and you really have to take advantage of those few coming in so (it was) nice to birdie three of the last four and get some momentum going into tomorrow.”

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As for winning her home open, she said: “To win your national open is a big honour. Probably just below the Majors, I’d say. Rory has done it, Shane has done it, Pádraig has done it. So it would be nice to give the home fans something to cheer about come Sunday, but there’s a long way to go yet.”

It was also a good day for Ennis native Aideen Walsh (24), who overcame her pre-tournament nerves and made 17 pars in a row before knocking in a 17-footer at the ninth for a one-under 71 that left her tied 44th.

“I know, that was hilarious,” said the Irish international, a member of Lahinch and Dromoland Castle, of her Faldo-esque run of pars. “I actually thought I was going to have all pars. I’m so happy that I birdied the last!

“I hit every green on the front nine, 15 greens altogether, which is really good out there.”

Admitting she would have taken 71 before going out, she said: “It’s nerves when you’re the home one playing in an Irish Open, so I was quite nervous for the back nine, my front nine, so I think I would, definitely.”

Amateur Marina Joyce Moreno (16) holed a six-iron from 155 yards at the 13th for the first competitive hole-in-one of her career in a 74 that left her tied 93rd with Clandeboye’s Rebekah Gardner.

Hermitage’s Kate Lanigan shot 75, Knock’s Katie Poots a 77, Roscommon’s Olivia Costello (14) a 79 and Bangor professional Victoria Craig an 80.


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