England’s Hannah Screen and Italian Angelica Moresco finished in style to share the early lead after the opening day of The Womens Amateur Championship at Royal County Down.
Over the renowned Northern Ireland links in Newcastle, Screen and Moresco posted four-under-par rounds of 69 on the first day of stroke play qualifying.
Among the early starters who enjoyed the best of the conditions as the breeze strengthened in the afternoon, the leading duo hold a two-stroke advantage over Wales’ Bethan Morris and Micheala Williams from the United States of America.
Moresco, 20, was two over par after five holes before the University of Alabama student responded with six birdies, including four on the back nine. Screen, 19, was also in form as she headed for the clubhouse, recording five birdies in her closing nine holes, to join the Italian at the summit.
Love for the course
Moresco, ranked 132nd on the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ is making her debut in the event and said, “It was a really good day. I started with two early bogeys but I fought back and tried to be patient. I hit some really good shots close to the pins to make the birdies.
“It’s an honour to be here, playing against the best players in the world and I’m having fun.
“I’ve played in the Girls Amateur before and I actually love this type of course. It makes me be more creative and shape shots. It’s nice to start well, but there is still a long way to go.”
Berkhamsted’s Screen, who lost in the last-64 last year at Hillside, added, “I was hitting the ball great all day and had a lot of looks for birdies on the front nine, but only one putt dropped. Having my dad, Nick, on the bag as caddy definitely helped me and the back nine was better. I absolutely love the course.
“I’ve just finished my first year in America at the University of Houston and I’ve got a good stroke average, just over 72, and I’ve had a few top-10s, so I’ve been pleased with my form. A lot of the young English players are doing well just now so it’s inspiring to try and enjoy success too.”
With this week’s winner gaining entry to this year’s AIG Women’s British Open at Woburn and the 2019 Evian Championship, as well as next year’s US Women’s Open and the Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship, there is much to play for over a venue that hosted the Irish Open in 2015.
Morris finished with back-to-back birdies and also chipped in at the 13th to post her two under score.
“I played nicely so it’s nice to get a good one posted for the first round,” said the 22-year-old. “I reached the last-32 last year so hopefully I can improve on that.
“I’ve just finished University in Cardiff so I’ve been pretty flat out with exams. I’m playing well, though, and I’ve managed to play in a few events. It’s my first time here and it’s a lovely course. We’re lucky to be here.”
Williams, 21, battled back from a double bogey at the opening hole for her effort and added, “It’s my first time playing in Ireland and it was a really good experience. It was a bad start but I chipped in on the third for a birdie and made a few putts coming in.
“I’m from Alabama so it’s completely different here, seeing the dunes and hitting knock down shots.”
Harm on the brink
Defending champion Leonie Harm from Germany, who flew in after competing for the International Team at The Arnold Palmer Cup in the US at the weekend, sits on four-over-par in a tie for 72nd.
The leading Irish player is Anna Foster on one over par, in 23rd place.
The 144-player field play a further round of stroke play qualifying tomorrow. The leading 64 players will then advance to the match play stage from Thursday to Saturday. Each match will consist of one round of 18 holes, including the Final.
Past champions of The Womens Amateur include Anna Nordqvist (2008), Georgia Hall (2013) and Céline Boutier (2015), while Leona Maguire was the last Irish player to win the title in 2017.
Entry is free of charge throughout the week for all spectators at Royal County Down, while live scoring, news and video can be followed on The R&A’s website and social media platforms.