Saturday 25 November 2017

Maguires make mark as Hjorth sets pace

At Killeen Castle

SWEDEN'S Maria Hjorth was the queen of the Castle on day one of the €500,000 AIB Ladies Irish Open, but a couple of young Irish golfing princesses made their mark too.

Hjorth, a veteran Solheim Cup player, posted a five-under-par 67 in the morning and that held up throughout a wet and blustery day at the well-attended Meath venue.

But the 15-year-old Maguire twins claimed a big share of the limelight and earned plenty of applause among a top-quality field.

Rebecca Coakley, with a one-under-par 71, led the Irish challenge, with the twins a shot behind her. Martina Gillen and another amateur, Danielle McVeigh, were next best of the Irish on 74.

Leona Maguire battled bravely for a level-par 72 in the morning and then it was up to Lisa in the afternoon, who didn't disappoint, sinking a tricky eight-foot putt on the last to sign for level par as well.

Leona gave herself a huge test by being four-over-par through the 10th hole, but she then responded in style and made four birdies on the last eight holes.

"Any time you shoot par around here is a good score and I'm happy after being four-over through 10," she said. "If someone had told me I would finish level I would have taken it, so I'm pretty happy with my round."

Lisa was in a marquee group in the afternoon, playing alongside Ladies Tour legend Laura Davies (76) and Australia's Katherine Hull (74), the runner-up in last week's British Women's Open.

Lisa was two-over-par after the front nine, quite a feat in itself, as she had a treble-bogey six on the par-three sixth when she took three to get out of a greenside bunker.

However, a bounce-back birdie on seven steadied the ship, and Lisa picked up two birdies on the back nine for her 72.

Asked about the challenge set by Leona's opening score, Lisa smiled and said: "I heard what she had done just before I went out, so for bragging rights tonight I decided I'd keep it close enough to where it was.

"I'd a good start with a birdie on the first, and on six, it was the tee shot that was the problem there.

"At least I got the birdie back on seven. It was a case of hanging in there all day and then the birdies came along."

Another Irish player smiling after a testing opening day was Rebecca Coakley.

"I felt like I drove the ball pretty well today," she said.

"I felt I was hitting it a decent length, which is a big help because it was playing a lot longer than the practice rounds and the Pro-Am.

"I putted reasonably well. I left three out there that looked like they were going in but finished short, but I'm happy."


Coakley's round began on the 10th tee, and in all she had four birdies and three bogeys. The pick of her birdies was a two on the 144-yard par-three sixth hole, her 15th.

"I couldn't believe the pin position they put on that hole," she said. "When we looked at it in practice I didn't think they'd do that, but I hit five-iron and holed the putt from six feet, so I was happy with that."

Hot on the heels of overnight leader Hjorth is England's Melissa Reid on four-under-par.

Next came a group of five players, including 18-year-old rookie Scottish professional, Carly Booth, who were nicely placed on three-under.

And what of the international stars, such as Norway's Suzann Pettersen and flamboyant American competitor Christina Kim?

Kim fought well for 72, and Pettersen, who complained of tiredness after eight weeks on the road, shot 74.

The rest of the Irish had a mixed day on the fairways. Tara Delaney shot 77, Hazel Kavanagh 81, and Claire Coughlan-Ryan 82.

Galway-born Alison Walshe, representing the USA, finished on 75.

Ladies Irish Open,

Highlights, Sky Sports 2, 11.0; RTE 2, 11.30

Irish Independent

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