Maria Dunne got out of the blocks fast on the opening day of the Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship at Co. Louth carding an opening 66.
Dunne got off to the perfect start as she birdied the tough 433 yard par 4 first hole at Baltray by hitting a rescue wood to 3 feet to get her tournament underway in style. Following up with no less than 9 more birdies and one blemish on the 8th meant she would sign for a 9 under par 66.
“I felt really good this morning, this is a course I love and I actually won my first event here at the Leinster Women’s Championship in 2002, every time I come back I just enjoy it. Did I think I would come out here today and have 10 birdies and a bogey, probably not! I am delighted with my score today!” Dunne Said.
The Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship will be held at Co. Louth for the next 5 years, this year has honoured two legends of the game in Clarrie Reddan and Philomena Garvey so it was very fitting that Maria had Clarrie’s son Barry, caddying for her. “I’ve known Barry for a long time now, he’s a member here, he’s a good man to have on the bag, he kept me relaxed and we just enjoyed it!”
Barry, a golfing legend in his own right, won the West, East and South of Ireland, was an Irish International and is a devout Co. Louth member. Clarrie Reddan and Philomena Garvey dominated in their amateur careers, and although there was no Open Stroke Play at the time, they boast 16 Irish Close Championships and 8 GB&I Curtis Cup team appearances between them.
Despite Dunne’s superb score, she will take just a one shot lead into round 2 as playing partner Gemma Clews (England) signed for a 67. “We kind of bounced off each other, following each other into the hole. On 15, we were pretty much level, Gemma putted first and rolled in a birdie putt and then I followed her in just as easy, it was plain sailing today,” commented Maria after signing her card. Clews wasn’t the only English woman on form today, teammates Sophie Lamb and Lianna Bailey, both finishing 4 under for their rounds, are in prime position to chase the lead on day 2.
On a day where level par would leave you just outside the top 20, there was some stunning golf to be viewed. The German pair of Carolin Kaufmann and Ava Bergner carded 12 birdies between them, while Lucy Simpson had 8 birdies and signed for a 3 under 72. With 10 Irish under par and a number more close behind, there will be no shortage of players to support over the weekend.