Seven Irish qualify for matchplay at Women’s Amateur

Ronan MacNamara

Aine Donegan (Photo by Oisin Keniry/R&A via Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Hopes will be high for a home winner at this week’s Women’s Amateur Championship after seven Irish progressed through to the matchplay stages in Portmarnock.

Beth Coulter was the first home player through to the knockout stages after she finished her second round on eight-over-par after back to back rounds of 76 and she was joined in the afternoon by Sara Byrne of Douglas, Elm Park duo Anna Foster and Emma Fleming, Castlerock’s Annabel Wilson, Lahinch’s Aine Donegan and Hermitage’s Kate Lanigan.

It’s an excellent return from the thirteen players that teed it up at the beginning of the 36-hole strokeplay qualifying.

After gusts of up to 35km/h on day one, the breeze was minimal in North Dublin and with eleven tees moved forward to the greens and two to the yellows, some tricky pins provided a leveller and a challenge to the players.

Kirkistown Castle’s Coulter was out in the peak of the wind on day one and had to deal with some morning rain so she was delighted to have survived the 64-player cut and can look forward to another run at this championship having reached the quarter final last year.

“Yesterday I got the rough end of the draw I was out when it was really, really windy. Today I made some sloppy bogeys and hopefully I can hole a few more putts tomorrow,” said the 20-year-old who is feeling the benefits of a swing change.

“Definitely a lot better, I needed last week to knock the rust off a little bit. I saw my coach last week and I definitely feel a lot more comfortable this week, especially with the driver.”

Irish Close champion Byrne hit twelve fairways and greens in as many holes en route to a two-over 74 which saw her qualify as the leading Irishwoman on four-over on a day where she carded sixteen pars and two bogeys. Her passage into the knockout rounds was never in doubt throughout the day and she will be hoping the putter heats up when she needs it most.

“The putter was kind of ice cold today unfortunately but I struck the ball really well and did what I needed. Happy out did what I needed to do.

“The mentality I had was look I don’t need the putts today, so I’ll have a few practice putts to try and get some feel and get the putter warmed up.”

Ulster Strokeplay winner Annabel Wilson played seventeen excellent holes of golf but double bogeyed the 18th for the second successive day but her place in the last-64 was already secure and she could laugh about her 73 which gave her a six-over total.

Wilson is swinging it beautifully and looks to have found some of her best form after a quiet eighteen months. The 23-year-old is no stranger to the big stage having played on the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team and reached the semi-finals of the US Women’s Amateur in the past.

“I do enjoy the matchplay format I enjoy the challenges and it’s important to take each match and shot as it is and see how far we can go.”

Lanigan who holds student membership in Portmarnock will be keeping the locals interested after she eased through the strokeplay on seven-over after rounds of 76 and 74 and despite a three-putt bogey on the 18th which denied her shooting her best score here since becoming a member she feels like she is getting to grips with the course after making the cut at the Amateur for the first time.

“That’s always the first task getting through the stroke-play, I’ve come close the last few years so it’s nice to get it over the line and anything can happen now.”

Irish Women’s Amateur champion Foster survived a wretched start where she was six-over through six with a back nine of 35 to qualify on five-over while her club mate Fleming was five shots further back in T40 alongside Donegan who took a late slide towards the cut mark but closed with three pars to ensure she progressed.

Only two players ended the 36-hole strokeplay qualifying in red figures with world number one Lottie Woad blitzing the field on nine-under after superb rounds of 69 and 66.

The Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion is looking to become the first person since Georgia Hall to win the Girls Amateur and Women’s Amateur.

“I guess the first goal was just to qualify, and then when you’re up there, just, you know, keep playing well and just see if you can be the leading qualifier,” said the Englishwoman.

After opening her round with a bogey, Woad, in front of the onlooking Curtis Cup captain Catriona Matthew, took advantage of the benign conditions and roared to the summit with seven unanswered birdies.

“Yeah, conditions today were a lot easier. So I could attack a lot of pins, but still had to respect a few of the pins. Definitely held a lot of putts today, so that always helps.

“I like playing links golf. Haven’t played in a while. So it was kind of good just to get the feel back.

“And I played relatively conservative off most tees just to avoid some fairway bunkers. But in match play, I might hit a few more drivers. I was kind of just testing it out the past couple days.”

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