The round of the day from an Irish perspective was Sara Byrne’s four-under 68 that took the Douglas amateur from outside the cutline to well inside, setting up a wonderful opportunity to announce herself on the world stage ahead of her return to the University of Miami on Monday.
And it was as comfortable a four-under as you’re likely to find. Two birdies on the front, two birdies on the back, with only one hole where she was in any real danger of making a bogey.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” Byrne told me after soaking up the atmosphere and embracing the many friends and relatives who’d followed her around, “and just coming into this week, making the cut was the goal.
“And I knew after yesterday’s poor start that I need a big day today so to come out and do it is… I’m actually over the moon, just delighted, like. Making the turn in two-under kind of eased me up a little bit going into the back nine and then getting another two at 11 and 13, it really just made it that the finishing few holes, I could be free a little bit, and I still left a few out there, especially on the last four holes.
“So a little bit annoyed at that, but again, I can’t complain. For a 68, I can’t say anything else.”
With leaderboards all over the course and the cutline highlighted at the bottom, she was well aware of where she stood because, as she’d explain, she’s a keen leaderboard watcher. “I was, I’ve been seeing it on on the leader boards. I liked the little +1, the little green marker showing it at the bottom of the leader boards today.
“So I think, I chipped in on five for birdie and I think that just kind of set me off. I knew then that I just needed to trust myself in my game and I knew that I was really playing well, I was striking it well.”
The only time she looked likely to make bogey came on the ninth when she found a horrific lie in the bunker but played a miraculous recovery shot and saved par.
“Yeah, when I got to the bunker it was actually plugged,” she said, “so I got a little bit unlucky there as well, but other than that, everything was in my control.
If making the cut was the goal line, she’s gone beyond it now and has to reposition the posts for the weekend, but even as her round was drawing to a close, she had an eye on Sunday and the highest finish possible.
“Yeah, a little bit,” she replied when asked if she would be setting a new target. “Even coming down the last few holes, l knew I had to say to myself, “yes, I do want to make the cut, but I also don’t want to be too conservative” because I knew I was inside the cut line. And I want to make my way up the leader board as far as I can.
“I’m not going to hold back. I can go out there free know and whatever happens, happens. But even for the last few holes, I was trying not to be conservative because I knew I wanted to go out there and still move up the leader board, you know, because now the cut is made.”
Due to fly back to Miami at 7am on Monday morning to resume her studies, she’s not intending to let an early flight put a dampener on her spirits and doesn’t rule out celebrating late into the night.
“It’s from Cork, so it makes it a little bit easier,” she said, “and you can always sleep on the plane.”
Among those watching Byrne was proud grandfather Terry who was understandably delighted at watching his granddaughter producing golf of the highest order.
“We’re absolutely delighted to see her getting to the stage where she can, number one, play in the Irish Open and number two, then make the cut,” Terry said. “She came here with no expectations at all, she just was trying to get the experience and enjoy the whole experience and she has that attitude of trying to enjoy everything she does.”
Terry, who turns 80 this year, walked all 18 holes along with his wife in support of their granddaughter, and having walked the same 18 holes myself, I can tell you it’s no mean feat.
“It’s the first time I ever followed her around the golf course,” Terry explained. “Yeah, that’s, it’s a good walk around there when you’re at my age, when you’re at my age it is a good walk, you know, and I know all about it.”
Though he’s never followed her for a full round before, he recalls her taking her first steps as a golfer back when she was 10 or 11, and has watched her progress keenly, but, like Byrne herself, he’s not getting carried away.
“You’re only as good as your last round as you probably know,” he said. “So she, she’s, you know, survived all the backward steps and she seems to come away smiling and say, “well, you know, tomorrow is another day.”