Ireland's Ronan Mullarney and Scotland’s Gemma Batty lead after the first day of The R&A’s Foundation Scholars Tournament at the Eden Course in St Andrews.
Contested over 54 holes at both the Eden and Old Courses, the two-day World Amateur Golf RankingTM counting tournament features 60 men and women students representing 20 universities from across the world including Cardiff, Durham, Malaga, Pretoria, St Andrews and Ulster.
The Scholars receive funding from The R&A to help with progressing their golf while studying at college or university and are invited each year to compete against their fellow students.
In a first for the women’s event, the tournament offers both winners a place on the International Team for the Arnold Palmer Cup match played against the USA. This year’s match is being played at the Evian Resort in France in early July.
The tournament features student golfers who receive financial assistance from The R&A to enable them to continue to play competitive golf while completing their studies.
In difficult weather conditions, Mullarney, from Maynooth University, finished the day on a two-under-par of 138 for 36 holes. As the wind and rain worsened in the afternoon, the 22-year-old, who has played in the Foundation scholars tournament twice before, did well to add a 71 to his earlier 67 to take a three-shot advantage into the third and final round at the Old Course on Tuesday.
"It got tougher, breezier, colder, which I didn't think was possible - and it got wetter. It wasn't a great combination," said the Paddy Harrington scholar. "It was sort of survival of the fittest this afternoon.
"I've put myself in a good position. Our manager was saying that the scores on the Old Course is where it's usually won or lost.
On the possibility of playing in the Arnold Palmer Cup, Mullarney said, "It's huge. There's a big event on in the west of Ireland this week. I've missed that to come here and try and win a place in the Arnold Palmer Cup."
The University of Stirling's Gemma Batty, in her fourth Foundation Scholars Tournament, defied the weather to record a three-under-par (143) total for 36 holes.
When others struggled in the afternoon, a second round 69, including two eagles and five birdies, catapulted her to the top of the leaderboard.
"It was pretty brutal. After the first few holes we knew it was going to be a tough test of golf," said Batty. "I pitched in on the 4th for an eagle which was pretty cool. I was six-under through seven holes and it was just a case of keeping going."
This will be Batty's final year as an R&A Foundation Scholar as she intends to take up full-time employment after she graduates this summer. But with a place in the International Team at the Arnold Palmer cup up for grabs, this week she is focused on golf and performing at the Old Course on Tuesday.
"I've had some pretty good scores around there. A couple of years ago I was seven-under so if I can take some confidence from that and today - fingers crossed I can play well," she said.
"I've got a motto at the moment just to enjoy my golf, because unfortunately, golf is going to come to an end for me pretty soon. It was awful out there today, but I enjoyed it - and that's what I have to keep telling myself.
"It would be a great honour for any player to win a spot at the Arnold Palmer Cup this week and obviously with it being my final year competing as a student it would be pretty cool to finish it off like that!"
Each year The R&A invests over £300,000 in student and university golf. Currently, the organisation supports golf programmes at 17 universities and in the 2017/2018 academic year, awarded 170 individual Foundation scholarships.
Previous scholars include four-time winner on the PGA Tour Hideki Matsuyama, European Ryder Cup player Francesco Molinari and former Women’s British Open champion and Solheim Cup Captain, Catriona Matthew.
You can follow scoring from The R&A Foundation Scholars Tournament at here.