World No 1 Leona Maguire showed her class when she fired a a six under 67 to lie just a stroke behind Sweden’s Elin Esborn after the first qualifying round in the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship at Portstewart.
The 20-year old Duke University and Slieve Russell star fed off her college team mate and playing partner Celine Boutier of France (69) as she made an eagle, five birdies and just one bogey on the tough Strand Course.
The round left Maguire in the clubhouse lead until 18-year old Esborn stormed to the turn in 32 with birdies at the first, second, fourth and seventh and then came home in 34 iwth an eagle three at the 14h and a birdie at the 17th for an immaculate 66.
"I think I've had a six-under par round at Portstewart before, in the Irish Close Championship, but the course which the LGU have us playing is not quite the same as we played then" said Leona.
“I could have been even lower today because I had chances I didn't take. But I'll take a 67 at Portstewart any day!
"I always think of this course as being two different halves. Get it round the first nine in around par and you have a chance of getting a low score, because the second nine does not have as much potential trouble as before the turn."
The Cavan star was actually one-over par after seven holes, having gone through the green at the second, which cost her a bogey.
It was at the eighth that the Ballyconnell player’s round took off as she holed a 12 footer for birdie there and then picked up shots at four fo the next six holes.
She holed from eight feet at the ninth to turn in one under and then made the first of three in a row with a pitch and putt birdie four at the long 13th.
Leona then two-putted the long 14th for another birdie four and hit a nine-iron to three feet at the par-three 15th to go four under for the day.
She then capped off an impressive performance by reducing the 436-yard, par-five 17th to a drive and a nine-iron.
“That hole was downwind and I was 50ft from the flagstick in two but managed to roll in the putt for an eagle three"
Leona’s clubhouse lead didn’t last ling as Esborn,18, knocked her off top spot near the close of play, hitting a career low, seven-under 66 in only her second tournament over a links course.
“I played in the Duke of York Young Champions tournament at Royal Aberdeen last year,” Esborn said. “That was a links course but I had never played links before and did not have much practice.
"So I didn't play well. Shot up in the 80s. But that was my fault not the links course, I really like links golf and with more preparation this time I have been able to score better."
Esborn’s bogey-free round was highlighted by an eagle three at the 447-yard 14th where she got home with a drive and a five-wood and sank a 20 foot putt.
She had got off to the best possible start thanks to birdies at the first two holes, sinking putts of around 15 feet at each.
“That was good for my confidence and I pitched and putted for a birdie four at the long fourth and again at the seventh to get to four under par on the outward half,” she said.
In fact 32 was the lowest outward half and she continued her error-free golf after the turn.
After parring the four holes, she got her eagle at the 14th and her final birdie at the par-5 17th with a two-putt from just off the green.
"I am ranked No. 6 in Sweden at Under-21 and No. 2 at Under-18, and the No. 1 is not playing here! I’m delighted to have got my best ever score - and on a links course,” Elin added. "That makes it special! But there is a long way to go in this tournament.
“The championship does not really start until the match-play but if I can keep playing like this …"
The scoring average was 76.47 on a mixed day for the Irish and with just 64 qualifying for the matchplay stages on Thursday, some have work to do.
Donaghadee’s Jessica Ross (71) is well place in joint 11th after her two under effort while Castletroy’s Chloe Ryan and Royal County Down Ladies’ Olivia Mehaffey are tied 32nd after one over 74s.
But the rest of the home brigade are outside the top 64 with Forrest Little’s Julie McCarthy, Sinead Sexton and Maria Dunne tied 74th after their 77s.
Lisa Maguire and Jessica Carty also need good round after 78s on day one.
Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship, Portstewart GC (Par 73)
66 Elin Esborn Sweden
67 Leona Maguire Slieve Russell
69 Olivia Cowan Germany, Sophie Keech Parkstone, Celine Boutier France, India Clyburn Woodhall Spa,
70 Joanna Charlton Australia, Linnea Johansson Sweden, Linnea Strom Sweden, Madelene Sagstrom Sweden
71 Heather Munro Monifieth, Jessica Ross Donaghadee, Jessica Bradley Tiverton
72 Leslie Cloots Belgium, Puk Thomsen Denmark, Luna Sobron Spain, Ellinor Haag Sweden, Linn Andersson Sweden, Natalia Escuriola Spain, Katie Mitchell USA, Kristen Gillman USA, Bethan Popel Long Ashton
73 Dewi Weber Netherlands, Jiwon Jeon Korea, Hannah McCook Grantown on Spey, Marion Veysseyre France, Sarah Nilsson Sweden, Camille Chevalier France, Harang Lee Spain, Dulcie Sverdloff Garons Park, Aditi Ashok India
74 Rachel Rossel Switzerland. Ines Lescudier France, Anna Appert Lund Sweden, Jessica Meek Carnoustie Ladies’, Gemma Clews Delamere Forest, Marta Martin Spain, Lianna Bailey Kirby Muxloe, Paula Grant Lisburn, Carlotta Ricolfi Italy, Doris Chen USA, Frida Kinhult Sweden, Chloe Ryan Castletroy, Olivia Mehaffey Royal County Down Ladies’
75 Katerina Vlasinova Czech Republic, Annabel Bailey Kirby Muxloe, Connie Jaffrey Troon Ladies’, Lea Zeitler Austria, Samantha Fuller Roehampton. Antonia-leonie Eberhard Germany, Inci Mehmet Royal Mid Surrey. Vanessa Knecht Switzerland, Emily Penttilä Finland. Lucrezia Colombotto Rosso Italy, Maddie Szeryk Canada. Jenny Haglund Sweden, Gioia Carpinelli Switzerland
76 Fatima Fernandez Spain, Samantha Giles St. Mellion, Nastja Banovec Slovenia, Alexandra Bonetti France, Amira Alexander Virgin Islands, U.S., Leonie Harm Germany, Camilla Hedberg Spain, Fiona Liddell Germany, Bronwyn Davies Wolstanton, Laura Fuenfstueck Germany, Elizabeth Tong Canada, Charlotte De Corte Belgium, Eva Gilly France, Nuria Iturrios Spain, Jennifer Ha Canada, Ellie Goodall Selby
77 Julienne Soo Australia, Julie McCarthy Forrest Little, Elizabeth Prior Burhill, Hannele Mikkola Finland, Cylia Damerau Switzerland, Marthe Wold Norway, Ludovica Farina Italy, Silvia Bañon Spain, Jennifer Sepers Netherlands, Gabrielle Macdonald Craigielaw, Agathe Sauzon France, Maria Dunne Skerries, Ileen Domela Nieuwenhuis Netherlands, Sinead Sexton Lahinch, Roberta Liti Italy, Chloe Goadby St Regulus, Celia Barquin Spain, Mathilda Cappeliez France
78 Alice Barnes West Sussex, Iona Stephen Wentworth, Clara Young North Berwick, Morgane Metraux Switzerland, Bianca Maria Fabrizio Italy, Lisa Maguire Slieve Russell, Emily Slater Woodhall Spa, Jessica Carty Holywood, Meghan MacLaren Wellingborough, Martina Edberg Sweden, Manon Gidali France, Brittany Marchand Canada, Kim Metraux Switzerland
79 Emma Henrikson Sweden, Mariell Bruun Norway, Cajsa Persson Sweden, Hadas Libman Israel, Sarah Schober Austria, Lauren Horsford Wimbledon Park
80 Emma Broze France, Zara Woodbridge Australia, Stina Resen Norway, Susana Vik Norway, Antonia Scherer Germany, Yu Eun Eunice Kim Australia, Cloe Frankish Charthills, Rachael Taylor Scotland
81 Nadine Dreher Austria, Malene Krølbøll Denmark, Marie Lunackova Czech Republic, Ann-Kathrin Wandrey Germany
82 Soo Jin Lee Australia, Charlotte Austwick Fulford, Lauren Whyte St Regulus, Sophie Lamb Clitheroe, Lena Schaffner Germany, Olivia Winning Rotherham
83 Alexandria Celli USA, Franziska Friedrich Germany
84 Marit Harryvan Netherlands, Andrea Vilarasau Spain, Azelia Meichtry Switzerland
85 Laure Castelain France, Marlies Krenn Austria, Julia Engstrom Sweden, Jae Bowers Prestbury, Ines Fendt Austria
86 Ashley McCourt Australia
87 Antonia von Wnuck Germany.