Ireland's amateurs showed they can rub shoulders with the professionals and more than hold their own with impressive performances in the rain-delayed ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women at Galgorm Castle and Massereene.
Galgorm Castle's Boys international Joshua Hill (16) — the reigning Leinster Boys champion — shot a bogey-free, three-under 67 in tough, windy conditions at Massereene to head the home challenge, tied for 11th on three-under, just four shots behind England's Todd Clements — one ahead of Tim Rice and two better than Cormac Sharvin and Ruaidhri McGee.
Stephanie Meadow and Belgium's Manon De Roey shared the lead in the women's event on four-under after 71s at Massereene.
But Castlewarden amateur Lauren Walsh was just a shot off the pace, tied for third with Leona Maguire after a one-under 72 at Galgorm Castle with her Ireland teammate Annabel Wilson joint 13th on level par.
In a race to finish his round before nightfall, Clements posted four birdies in his opening nine holes at Galgorm Castle Golf Club before defying the challenging scoring conditions to come back in level par and secure his place at the top of the leaderboard for the first time in his career on seven under par.
Despite bogeying his final hole, the 22-year-old will begin his third round at Galgorm Castle with a narrow advantage over Scotland’s Calum Hill, Spaniard Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez, Englishman Laurie Canter and Francesco Laporta, from Italy, who sit one shot back on six under par.
With ten millimetres of rain falling on the two co-hosting venues, Galgorm Castle and Massereene Golf Club, overnight and howling wind making for tough conditions, local star Meadow demonstrated why she is touted as one of Europe’s best talents with a two under par round of 70, as she jumped ahead of overnight leader Ellie Givens into a share of the top spot at the halfway stage on four under par.
The Northern Irish player is joined at the summit of the leaderboard by De Roey, who added a one under par 71 to her opening round of 70 for a four under par aggregate total, as she looks to add to the LET Access Tour title she clinched earlier in the summer.
The pair are one shot clear of a seven-strong chasing pack which includes former amateur world No 1 Leona Maguire, first round leader Givens and English golfing legend Trish Johnson.
It was another day to remember for the Irish amateurs in the field, with Wake Forest-bound Walsh carding a one under par round of 72 at Galgorm Castle to head into the weekend of her first professional event just one shot off the lead and Irish Women’s Close champion Wilson. set to join UCLA next month, tied with the likes of Charley Hill on level par.
Just six of the 32 Irish made the cut in the men’s event with Hill, Rice, Sharvin and McGee joined for the third round by Malone amateur Matthew McClean (70-70) and Dermot McElroy (69-71).
In the women’s event Meadow, Maguire, Walsh and Wilson are joined by Lisa Maguire (76-73), amateur Jessica Ross (76-75), Rebecca Codd (75-81) and amateurs Paula Grant (79-74) and Shannon Burke (77-81).,
The field will be cut to the top 35 men and top 35 women after three rounds.
Todd Clements: “I’ve played great over the last couple of days. The putts have been dropping and it’s the first time I’ve been out in the lead over the weekend so it’s a new experience and I’m just going to learn.
“It’s been tricky with the weather, as everyone knows. With the suspensions you’ve just got to stay patient and it’s a mental battle more than anything else for me. It’s wet, it’s soft and it plays to my strengths, which is great.
“It was a bit of a rush at the end to get in before it got too dark. I had a six-footer for par on the last and it horseshoed on me; will I regret that over the weekend? Who knows.
“I’m just going to keep learning, keep doing what I’m doing, it’s the same strategy and hopefully it all comes together for me.”
Laurie Canter: “Honestly, I had so much fun out there today. It’s been a tough few years where I’ve been struggling to find my game, so it’s great to be back in contention again. I wasn’t really thinking about too much out there today. I’ve come into this event off the back of a three-week break and a trip to Ibiza and instead of getting bogged down in my thought process I just went and played golf. It was just really fun to be playing like that again and hoping for more of the same tomorrow.”
Stephanie Meadow: “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.
“The greens are rolling almost exactly the same at both venues so good job to the green staff for preparing the course that way. 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.
“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. I can’t tell you how much it means for all these people to come out and watch me. I make a putt and there’s lots of claps and the 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.”
Annabel Wilson: “I’m not fazed by much, I made one poor swing off the first tee which led to a double but I hit a lovely shot into two and then just moved on and didn’t think too much more about it. That’s just golf, it’s why you love it. My short game was great today. I actually had chipped-in twice which is always helpful.
“I’m not much of a leaderboard watcher, maybe I’ll have a quick look tonight especially for the draw tomorrow and see who I might be playing with. It’s cool that Charley Hull is playing this week. We were on opposite ends of the draw so I haven’t seen her yet, I’d like to see her hit a ball before the end of the week.”
In amateur golf, Royal Dublin's Max Kennedy beats two Norwegians — Alexander Settemsdal 3&2 and Bard Skogen 6&4 — to set up a quarter-final clash with Italy's Matteo Cristoni in the R&A Boys' Amateur at Saunton.
"I played the Boys Home Internationals last week and won five out of six of my matches," Kennedy said. "So my match play form is pretty good. It would be nice to keep going and hopefully get the win."
In the centenary R&A Girls' Amateur at Panmure, Elm Park's Anna Foster fell by one hole to Euphemie Rhodes in the third round.
Rhodes went on to knock out leading qualifier Alessia Nobilio, the world number six, to reach the semi-finals.
R&A Boys' Amateur Championship, Saunton (East)
Rd. 3: M Kennedy (Royal Dublin) bt A Settemsdal (Nor) 3&2. Rd. 4: Kennedy bt B Skogen (Nor) 6&4. Today: Quarter-finals, M Cristoni (Ita) v M Kennedy (Royal Dublin); W Ederö (Swe) v J Kelso (Eng); T Gueant (Fra) v G Holland (Eng), B Brown (Eng) v C Passmore (Eng).
R&A Girls' Amateur Championship, Panmure
Rd. 3: A Nobilio (Ita) bt E Paltrinieri (Ita) 2&1; E Rhodes (Eng) bt A Foster (Elm Park) 1 h; P Babnik (Slo) bt K Rudgeley (Aus) 4&3: C Tejedo (Esp) bt D Harry (Wal) 3&2; C Lopez-Chacarra (Esp) bt L Malchirand (Fra) 2&1; M Lussand (Nor) bt P Schulz-Hanssen (Ger) 3&2; L Rydqvist (Swe) bt I Simpson (Eng) 3&2; I Holpfer (Aut) bt N Høst Husted (Den) 2&1. Quarter-finals: Rhodes bt Nobilio 3&2; Babnik bt Tejedo 2&1; Lussand bt Lopez Chacarra 1 h; Holpfer bt Rydqvist 3&2.
Today: Semi-finals, Rhodes v Babnik; Lussand v Holpfer.
Kerry Boys Championship, Ballybunion (Cashen)
J Murphy (Douglas) bt K McCarthy (Lee Valley) 5&4. Plate: D O’Sullivan (Mallow) bt E Healy (Ballybunion) 19th.