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Talented Stephanie Meadow has major ambitions in the USA

By Peter Hutcheon

The tough road to gaining her full playing rights on the LPGA Tour is about to begin again in earnest for Stephanie Meadow.

The Ulster girl, who suffered Tour card play-off heartbreak at the end of last season, has forced her way into the field for the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at the Westchester Country Club in New York.

She is relying on sponsors invites to play on the Tour so far this year, but made the most of the first one to land on her doorstep, finishing in a tie for 20th place at the ANA Inspirational in California.

The $26,632 she earned there pushed her far enough up the money list for a place in the field for the second major of five in the professional women's game this season.

A four over 76 was not the way Meadow had wanted to start her first tournament of the year, the ANA Inspirational, but she fought back bravely with a four under 68 to make the cut and improved on her position with rounds of 70 and 71 over the weekend to earn a tie of 20th place and that coveted spot in the major.

Meadow is one of the earlier starters in today's first round, playing with Americans Jean Bartholemew and Danah Bordner.

South Korean Inbee Park is defending the title she has won for the last two years and the field also includes previous winner Laura Davis and reigning US Open champion Michelle Wie.

Double major champion Christie Kerr says this is a hugely important week for the women's game in general.

"That's ground-breaking," the American said. "It's just a cool week like that.

"I'm not just saying this because it's a little bit of a home game. I'm saying this because it's such a scenic, beautiful, tough-as-nails golf course that we deserve, as a Tour, to be on.

"We are great players and it's great to be on a venue that has this much history to it.

"It's just exceeded my expectations how big these majors are and how amazing our tournaments are in general, how they are run, how many fans we get out there now.

"It's great to see how KPMG and other sponsors are running this tournament. The golf course is great but the hospitality and everything else, we couldn't ask for more."

Meanwhile Leona Maguire finished as leading qualifier by a commanding six shots at the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship at Portstewart.

The County Cavan girl added a second round 68 to her opening 67 to finish the qualifying rounds on 11 under par ahead of France's Celine Boutier.

The 20-year-old will go into today's knockout stages as title favourite.

Royal County Down's Olivia Mehaffey also made it through to the matchplay stages with a one under par round of 72.

Tiarnon McLarnon (Massereene) shot 68-69 to claim the Specsavers North of Ireland Amateur Open Strokeplay title and with it earned his place in the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle in August.

McLarnon, playing off a +2 handicap, shot a four under 68 around Galgorm Castle in the morning to take a one shot lead over Kealan Quigg (Northwest), Damien McCusker (Moyola Park) and Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle).

McLarnon finished with three solid pars for a three shot victory.

Quigg and Reid again matched each other's score to finish on a total of 140 in second place.

McLarnon said: "I played really solid and enjoyed the course, it was in superb condition as always and I putted great on the greens.

"I'm delighted to get the victory and can't wait to play in the Northern Ireland Open here at Galgorm in front of the big crowds in August."

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