Grant heads Irish hopes as Humphreys sets blistering Baltray pace

Paula Grant (Photo" Cashman Photography)

Lisburn’s Paula Grant is the leading home hope after an opening day exhibition from England’s Lily-May Humphreys set a stern benchmark at the Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play at Baltray.

A host of elite International players, including three of the 2018 Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup Team, teed up in relatively calm conditions on day one of the 54-hole tournament but it was the 17-year old from Essex who shone brightest with a superb seven-under par 67 across the famous links.

Indeed, Humphreys may well repeat the feat achieved by Scotland’s Hannah McCook in 2018 when winning the Welsh and Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play titles in consecutive weeks.

Humphreys, who represented GB&I at the 2018 Curtis Cup, played for GB at the Youth Olympics last year and is a past British Girls’ Amateur Champion, opened with six birdies in her first nine holes and leads by four in the clubhouse from the Scottish trio of Eilidh Briggs, Hazel MacGarvie and Chloe Goadby.

“On the front nine I only two-putted twice and the rest were one putts, although I wanted to try and get lower once I got to 6-under through nine,” reflected a satisfied Humphreys.

“On the back nine I had two three-putts and three-putted the last for par which was disappointing but I struck it well and didn’t really make many mistakes massively – I just kept it in play, hit the greens, it was just pretty simple. I was just trying to play steady and give myself the opportunities.”

The teenager is no stranger to Irish shores having played last year’s Home Internationals at Ballybunion and having already won last week in Wales, it’s no surprise that Humphreys is feeling confident with the weather forecast looking good for the weekend.

“Yeah it was really nice to play well and get the win [last week]. It makes you feel very confident and yeah, I rolled it well out there today, I struck it well. I just need to carry it on through the week hopefully.”

Home hopes currently lie with Paula Grant who was the pick of Ireland’s players after posting a one-under par 73 to grab outright seventh overnight. Elm Park’s Leah Temple Lang and Douglas’ Clodagh Coughlin are just one shot further adrift after even par efforts to start their assault on the title.

One person refusing to give up is Scotland’s Goadby who finds herself four shots back of Humphrey’s imposing first round number. Goadby has competed at the event for the past two years and saw plenty in her performance to be feeling encouraged ahead of the final 36-holes at County Louth.

“I like the track, it’s a nice course,” said Goadby. “I had good front nine obviously being -5 through 9 is always nice, I hit a lot of good shots and holed a few putts which helps. The back 9 I kind of struggled a small bit off the tee. I still gave myself some chances but didn’t capitalise but I am still fairly happy with three under for round one.

“I eagled the third, I hit a 4-iron to 3-feet – that was a nice treat to start. I just had to stay patient after that.”

Goadby, like many in the field this week, has been busy juggling exams and practice of late, is hoping that the rounds she got under her belt last week in Wales can pay dividends over the weekend.

“I didn’t play great at Wales last week but I had college exams up until last week and headed straight down to Wales so my preparation wasn’t ideal, but I was just using it as getting back into it and to build for this week. Hopefully it will pay off.”

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