The day started with a delay and continued to be a slow starter for some local contenders at the ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women.
Thirty-one male competitors from North and South were among the players to take on Galgorm Castle and Massereene in the first two rounds. Just six made the halfway cut with amateur Josh Hill best on 3-under, four shots behind Todd Clements (ENG).
“It’s nice to have the home crowd, there were a lot of cheers out there. It doesn’t really feel like a Challenge Tour event. I had all my friends and family out and when I holed a putt on it was very nice to hear everyone roar.”
Fellow amateur Matthew McClean also progresses on level par alongside Dermot McElroy while Cormac Sharvin, Tim Rice and Ruaidhri McGee complete the sextet.
The women’s event promises to provide a weekend of excitement with four home players in the top 15 at the halfway stage.
Stephanie Meadow leads the way alongside Manon de Roey (BEL) on 4-under with Leona Maguire and Lauren Walsh one shot further back.
“My front nine definitely felt pretty tough,” said Meadow after her round at Massereene. “The wind was howling out there and the greens were a little firmer than I’d expected given how much rain we’d had, so that was a bit of a learning curve throughout the round.”
Meadow has had full playing rights on the LPGA Tour this year, her best finishes at the Marathon Classic by Dana and the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational where she earned $48,504 between the two events.
“I’ve been close the last couple of days to doing something really nice, so I’m just going to go out tomorrow and keep doing more of the same stuff.”
Walsh has her bags packed for Monday morning when she will leave for her Freshman year at Wake Forest University but that will not distract her from adding to the experience of her first professional tournament.
“It’s kind of mad. I’ve tried to stick to what I usually do at tournaments and keep it as normal as possible. I just had fun out there, obviously it’s great and I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”
Annabel Wilson (AM), Lisa Maguire, Jessica Ross (AM), Paula Grant (AM), Rebecca Codd and Shannon Burke (AM) all make the midway cut for the tomorrow before a second cut is made for Sunday’s play.
The expectations for this event were high from the outset. Inclusivity as a word is thrown into conversation relatively haphazardly of late. However for an event to put actions behind its words is uncommon. Worldwide there have been a handful of events where male and female players have competed for equal prize money and the World Invitational has done not only that, but the event includes players with disabilities as well.
“The whole event has been fantastic, it’s an honour to be here to be honest,” said World Number 3 Disability Golfer Brendan Lawlor from Dundalk. “To get the invite to come here and put disability golf on the map a wee bit more, it feels good.
“It’s definitely a step forward for ladies golf and for me to be here is a step forward for disability golf. It doesn’t matter how different players are, inclusion is everything.”