Belfast Telegraph

Home support is so special, says joint-leader Stephanie Stephanie Meadow

 

In front: Stephanie Meadow is joint-leader on four-under par
In front: Stephanie Meadow is joint-leader on four-under par
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

After her opening round at the ISPS Handa World Invitational on Thursday, Jordanstown ace Stephanie Meadow insisted she wanted to put on a show for all those who came to support her.

So far, she hasn't disappointed.

The 27-year-old braved the gruesome conditions in her second round at Massereene Golf Club to emerge in a tie for the halfway lead at the tournament after a one-under-par second round of 71.

That puts her at four-under overall and joint at the top of the tree with Belgium's Manon de Roey heading into the weekend, and for the hometown hero - who has supported the event from the start - it's been a dream come true so far.

"It's fantastic to be back in Northern Ireland, it's actually my first professional event at home and the first tournament I've played in Ireland since 2013," she explained.

"I can't tell you how much it means for all of these people to come out and watch me. I make a putt and there's lots of claps and then lots of hugs at the end and just genuine joy from people to see me out here competing.

"It doesn't matter if I win or don't win, they're behind me so it's very special and I'm very touched."

She may say it doesn't matter whether she wins or not, but having put herself in a strong position heading into the weekend, Meadow will certainly hope to capitalise.

After a three-under-par opening round at Galgorm Castle on Thursday - the second course being used for the innovative new tournament - Meadow backed it up by going under par at Massereene in the howling wind and persistent rain.

She began slowly with a bogey on her second hole of the day, the 11th, however she rallied just before the turn, notching back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th before a further birdie came at the 18th.

That was followed up on the front nine - her back nine - with a birdie at the fourth, but an ugly double-bogey six at the par-four fifth soured what was looking like a fine round.

"My front nine definitely felt pretty tough. The wind was howling out there and the greens were a little firmer than I'd expected given how much rain we'd had so that was a bit of a learning curve throughout the round," added Meadow.

"I've been close the last couple of days to doing something really nice, so I'm just going to go out tomorrow and keep doing more of the same stuff."

There's a local feel to the leaderboard as Cavan's Leona Maguire is just one shot back at three-under par alongside Castlewarden amateur Lauren Walsh, while Lurgan amateur Annabel Wilson is still in the hunt at level-par for her first two rounds.

Maguire at one point reached five-under par and held the lead, birdieing three of her first eight holes, but back-to-back bogeys at the 12th and 13th saw her slip back and finish one behind Meadow and De Roey.

"I've been driving the ball quite well and hit some good iron shots today and gave myself some chances - I just need a few more putts to drop really," said Maguire, whose twin sister Lisa is four-over par.

"I had some good chances today, over here (at Galgorm) you really have to take advantage of the par-fives and I only birdied two of them, so I'll have to try and attack them tomorrow."

Overnight leader Eleanor Givens is alongside Maguire and Walsh among a seven-strong group on three-under par and just one shot back in what is a very bunched leaderboard on the women's side of the draw.

Meanwhile, Solheim Cup star Charley Hull is four shots off the lead at level-par after shooting a one-under 72 around Galgorm Castle despite suffering from some mental fatigue.

"I'm not hitting it that well this week, I'm a bit tired, but I managed to get round okay at one-under," said the World No.29.

"(One-under) is not very good around this golf course because you have to score well here, there are a lot of birdies out there. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, I hit it better towards the end so it should hopefully be a good day."

Of the other local players, the amateur duo of Jessica Ross (Clandeboye) and Paula Grant (Lisburn) lie six-over and eight-over par respectively.

However, there was disappointment for amateur duo Lucy Simpson (Royal Portrush) and Maeve Cummins (Lurgan) who both missed the cut.

There will be a second cut after today's third round, with only the top 35 and ties reaching tomorrow's final round.

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