Ten birdies for magnificent Maria Dunne at Baltray
 Maria Dunne in full flow

Maria Dunne in full flow

Skerries' Maria Dunne put a slow start to the season behind her when she blasted ten birdies in a nine-under-par 66 to take a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play at County Louth.

The Curtis Cup star was up and running from the moment she hit a rescue to three feet at the 433-yard first and went on to pick up nine more birdies with her only mistake coming at the tricky eighth.

The Dubliner ended the day one stroke clear of playing partner Gemma Clews (67) of England on the par-75 test with Germany's Carolin Kauffmann third on six-under after a 69.

“I felt really good this morning, this is a course I love and I actually won my first event here at the Leinster Women’s Championship in 2002, every time I come back I just enjoy it," Dunne said.

Scores

"Did I think I would come out here today and have ten birdies and a bogey? Probably not! I am delighted with my score today.”

The Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship will be held at Co. Louth for the next five years with the trophy now named in honour of County Louth legends Clarrie Reddan and Philomena Garvey.

And so it was fitting that Maria had Clarrie’s son Barry, caddying for her. 

“I’ve known Barry for a long time now, he’s a member here, he’s a good man to have on the bag, he kept me relaxed and we just enjoyed it," she said of the former West, East and South of Ireland champion.

Clarrie Reddan and Philomena Garvey dominated in their amateur careers, and although there was no Irish Open Stroke Play at the time, they boast 16 Irish Close Championships and eight Curtis Cup team appearances between them.
 
Dunne was inspired by her battle with Clews, who won the Welsh Ladies Strokeplay by five strokes last week. 

“We kind of bounced off each other, following each other into the hole," Dunne said. "On 15, we were pretty much level, Gemma putted first and rolled in a birdie putt and then I followed her in just as easy, it was plain sailing today.

Clews wasn’t the only English woman on form as teammates Sophie Lamb and Lianna Bailey both carded four-under 71s.
 
No fewer than 21 players broke par with the German pair of Carolin Kaufmann and Ava Bergner carding 12 birdies between them, while Lucy Simpson had eight birdies and signed for a three-under 72.