Sara Byrne is happy to carry some low expectations into the AIG Irish Women’s Amateur Close Championship at Grange Golf Club this weekend after she returned home from the college season Stateside.
The 2018 champion completed her second year at the University of Miami in Florida where she registered two top-10s and seven top-25 finishes. The top-10 finishes came in her first semester and she feels she put unnecessary expectations on her shoulders heading into semester two so she is aiming to arrive at the Grange with a clean slate and just see what happens.
“I had a very solid season and I had a lot of top 20s,” said Byrne who has never played the Grange. “I was getting myself in really good positions and after two rounds or 2 1/2 rounds I’d be inside the top 10 and unfortunately I wasn’t able to capitalise on that.
“But I still had a great semester and I know where my golf is at now. Every semester I seem to be getting better and jumping up to the next level which is a real confidence booster for this summer season.
“I’ll try to not have too many high expectations because I’ve discovered during the two years in Miami that the more expectations I have, the worse it gets.
“I have not played Grange before. I was a spectator for Senior cup there when I was about 13 or 12. I remember I watched a bit of golf there it’s parkland obviously and it’s quite like Douglas which is helpful.
“I am going in with an open mind. It’s always nice when it’s a new course that you’ve never played you don’t have any past expectations and so you’re going with a clean slate.”
“I know my golf is there, I just have to go out and play and have fun and see what happens. If I have a great week, I have a great week. So I don’t have too many expectations but I’m still hoping to play really good golf.”
When the 21-year-old won the Irish Women’s Close in 2018 she was just a sprightly young 17-year-old and while it seems like forever ago now, Byrne still reflects upon that win and feels it gave her the belief to progress as a golfer.
“It’s always super special and winning it in 2018 was probably one of the best weeks of my life,” she smiled.
“Winning that having just turned 17 was unbelievable. I think it matured me as a golfer. It was my first big win and it made me realise I can do it, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. It pushed me onto a different level.
“It’s the Irish Close and everyone loves it. It’s a great tournament and it’s in historic event that we all look forward to playing in.”
Byrne, who hopes to make the GB&I Curtis Cup team in the next two years, has been spending the last couple of weeks adjusting back from Bermuda grass to the Irish bentgrass while also getting used to the golf ball travelling a reduced distance through the air.
“It’s been a bit of an adjustment,” she says. “I have spent a lot of time practicing down in Fota Golf Club and getting back into that grass and the ball flight. It’s a bit different the first few days I was frustrated like how is the ball going this short compared to America.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment process I have played a lot of holes getting used to the grass on the greens, rough and fairways, definitely an adjustment, I’m very used to the Bermuda grass in Florida but coming back here it’s always easier to adjust to this than get used to Bermuda so it’s not been too bad.”
The Irish international has a packed schedule of golf including the Amateur Championship and the Home Internationals which will be played on home soil this year in Ballyliffin and she is relishing the prospect of playing in front of a home crowd.
“We had Europeans last year at home and that home feeling is just great. People coming to support is always lovely and it’s great to see some familiar faces. Having Homes in Ireland is going to be great again having that team environment and matchplay I love that and hopefully it will be a great week.
“I’ve never played Ballyliffin but it’s a links golf course it’s going to be great and I am really looking forward to it.”
The AIG Irish Women’s Close Championship will be played over four days from Saturday to Tuesday with 36-holes of stroke play qualifying before three days of matchplay to decide the winner.
Byrne will begin her quest for a second title alongside Beth Coulter and Jessica Ross.