A trio of players head a tightly packed international field after the opening round of the Girls British Open Amateur Championship at Ardglass Golf Club.
On the spectacular County Down links, birthday girl Lizzy Peeters from the Netherlands, Mathilde Claisse from France and Sweden’s Ingrid Lindblad were the only players to break par on a challenging day after posting one-under-par rounds of 69.
Peeters celebrated her 17th birthday with three birdies and just two dropped shots, while Claisse finished in style with a birdie and an eagle, after driving the 345-yard final hole. Lindblad soon joined the pair at the top after three birdies in her final six holes.
“I think it might be the hardest course for the British Girls that I’ve played before,” said Claisse, 18, a Junior Solheim Cup player last year. “It’s tough, you have to focus all the time. But it was kind of nice to drive the last and to hole the eagle putt was just a great finish.”
Birthday delight for Peeters
Peeters, whose career best finish is third at the Portuguese Intercollegiate Open, was all smiles on her notable day and said, “The first few holes scared me a bit, but I managed to overcome that.
“I thought the wind was a little hard on holes 10 and 14, but I managed to control it. It’s not that long a course, but it’s a challenge.”
Lindblad, 18, added, “It feels great to hit a low score, even though it was pretty windy. Sometimes I had to hit two or three more clubs, so it was pretty tough. I’ve put myself in a good position.”
On a 6,035-yard layout described ‘as the Pebble Beach’ of Northern Ireland given the dramatic holes along the coastline, two players are well-placed on level par. Lauren Walsh from Castlewarden leads the Irish challenge after her 70, the same mark as Celeste Dao from Canada.
The highest ranked player in the field, Italy’s Alessia Nobilio, struggled to a six-over-par 76, while Scotland’s Hannah Darling – winner of the inaugural Girls Under 16 Open Championship at Fulford in April – posted a 74.
Players from as far afield as Australia and South Africa are teeing up this week, with Wednesday seeing the second round of stroke play qualifying before the leading 64 players progress to match play. Each match will consist of one round of 18 holes, including Saturday’s final.
Previous winners of the event include Anna Nordqvist, Suzann Pettersen and the new Ricoh Women’s British Open champion, Georgia Hall, who triumphed in 2012 at Tenby.
View first round scores from the Girls British Open Amateur Championship here.