Sport Golf

Sunday 25 February 2018

Maguire stays in hunt

DERMOT GILLEECE, at Killeen Castle

Enthralled galleries, which included her Irish teacher and her coach, saw Lisa Maguire match strokes with older professional rivals during a second-round 68 in the Irish Ladies Open at Killeen Castle yesterday. In fact, the 16-year-old hit shots which were the equal even of male professionals at the highest level.

This was the view of her caddie, Colin Byrne, who was on Retief Goosen's bag when he captured the 2005 US Open. "The usual criticism of women pros around the greens certainly doesn't apply to Lisa," he said. "Over the last two days, I can think of four up-and-downs she made that a top-flight male pro would be proud of."

The European Amateur Individual champion talked of having set herself a goal for the week "and so far, I'm not far short of it." In fact she is on five-under par, five strokes adrift of joint leaders Dewi Claire Schreefel of Holland and Suzann Pettersen, who carded a course-record 63 containing seven birdies and an eagle.

"She had a shot at a 59, without even blinking," said Pettersen's playing partner Christina Kim. This was to have been a week off, but she has now met the requirement of six European events for automatic selection on the Solheim Cup team. "It was a late decision and a bit of a sacrifice, but I did it for the team," she said.

Galway-born first-round leader Alison Walshe, who departed for the US as a three-year-old, is ineligible to represent her adopted country in the Solheim Cup. But would she play for Europe? "Technically I could," she replied, "but it would seem weird taking the place of someone who has grown up over here."

Meanwhile, club golfers of both genders could learn much from observing the technical brilliance of these players. For instance, Kim hit four-iron shots of 178 yards where male counterparts would be hitting seven or eight-iron. And Lisa Maguire set up an eagle chance at the 460-yard seventh with a five-wood of 195 yards.

With this sort of clubbing, the fact that so many birdies are being recorded on a stretch measuring 6,437 yards, is a testament to superb ball-striking and admirable course management. Which is well worth watching.

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