Tough day for Walsh and Mehaffey as trio set overnight target at the Ladies Italian Open

Kevin Kent

Lauren Walsh (Image: Forefront)

Kevin Kent

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There were mixed fortunes on the opening day of the Ladies Italian Open as Golf Nazionale would prove to be a stubborn opponent in the deceptive leafy backdrop of Lazio.

On a day where fewer than a quarter of the field could break par, the target was set at -6 by the overnight leading trio of Fatima Fernandez Cano, Kirsten Rudgeley and Tiffany Arafi, all three chasing a maiden tour victory. Just the two bogeys between the three of them today shows the roadmap for success around here.

Lauren Walsh began her day on the 10th in the afternoon and two bogeys and a treble would come on her opening nine. Just the one birdie on the par-4 16th would help to stem the bleed as she would go to turn on+4 for her day. The second half of her round saw Walsh dig her heels in however, with a birdie on the par-5 1st, followed by a battling run of six consecutive pars. She would unfortunately bogey her final two holes of the day finishing on +5, but still in with a reasonable chance of progression if she can string a round together on Saturday with 60 plus ties heading into the final day.

It was a day to forget for Mehaffey who was well off the pace from the very start of her round. A tough day sees her at the back of the field, and she will need some drama tomorrow to rival the final day of the Scandinavian Mixed last week to stand any hope of taking to the course on Sunday.

Today saw the welcome return to action of LET stalwart, Australia’s Whitney Hillier. The 33-year-old returns to the fairways having missed out since last July through injury and illness. Hillier wasn’t long getting back into the swing of things in her first round back, carding five birdies in a round of 70 (-2) and right in the mix heading into Saturday’s action. Elsewhere in the chasing pack we saw a late run by India’s Diksha Dagar to lie in solo second on -5, with Czech, Sara Kouskova a further shot back. With just 27 players under par overnight there are opportunities to bolt from the midfield as the week progresses. Another to suffer around Golf Nazionale today was would-be OOM leader, Chiara Tamburlini, who had a chastening +10 for her opener. A boost to OOM leader Bronte Law who was a late withdrawal this week. Her lead, seeming safe, for now.

The home contingent of players is spearheaded by amateur Francesca Fiorelinni and last time’s runner-up Alessandra Fanali on -1, while Marta Spiazzi and second amateur Carolina Melgrati sit one back on par after solid starting rounds.

Of the leading trio, Rudgeley was asked to reflect on her impressive blemish free round: “It was a nice round of golf,” the 23-year-old said. “Bogey-free. Didn’t really do much wrong. It was quite a relaxing round of golf which was a bonus. There’s holes which you have to really think about and there’s others where you have to be careful off the tee. I keep saying I’m getting there. There’s just a few little things I still need to work on. Probably just minimising mistakes. I’ll keep plugging away and see how I go.”

Her co-leader, Spaniard, Fernandez Cano shared her thoughts on her day: “I started off a little bit slow with a bogey,” she said. “It took me a while to get those birdies coming. There’s a few holes on the front nine which I find a little bit more challenging. So, me and my caddie said we just have to get through those holes. I just kept hitting it solid and eventually holed a few putts. The big thing was to keep it online off the tee. That has not been my strong suit lately, unfortunately, but luckily for me, me and my coach talked about it and worked on a few things the other day. It’s been an up-and-down year. I have been playing solid golf. I knew it was going to come together at some point. I’m happy. I took a year off last year with an injury, so this year has been all about coming back into it.”

Walsh kicks off her second round in the morning sessions tomorrow with an 8.33AM start time off the first tee. Meanwhile Mehaffey begins her charge in the final match of the day starting on the 10th at 14.40 and a quick start will be needed after a bruising opening day.


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