As the clouds dissipated over Galgorm and Massareene Golf Clubs, one LPGA Tour rookie rose to the top of the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by AVIV Clinicis – 2021 Epson Tour graduate, Amanda Doherty. In her first appearance in Northern Ireland, Doherty carded an almost blemish-free day with a 6-under 67 on the par-73 Galgorm course, tying a career-low 18 holes for the American.
“I was really just trying to stay in the moment today, and I feel like I was just kind of in that mindset starting the day,” said Doherty, who last shot a 67 in the final round of the Amundi Evian Championship. “I stayed there and I stayed patient. I know it's kind of cliche, but it works. I was hitting the ball well. I made a couple good putts and there were some reachable par-5s, so just kind of came together.”
Doherty started Thursday with a birdie on her opening hole, No. 10, and carded four more until her lone bogey of the day on No. 4. She went on to make two more in her final four holes including one on the par-5 9th to sleep on an individual 18-hole lead for the first time in her LPGA Tour career.
“You don't often get to play two courses, so it's definitely interesting,” said Doherty. “Totally new game plan tomorrow. Just trying to stick to the same thing and stay patient and hopefully have a good round.”
Lurking just one-shot back at -5 is Ireland’s own Leona Maguire, along with major champion Georgia Hall, five-time LET winner Emily Kristine Pedersen and Epson Tour winner Lauren Coughlin. Coughlin and Pedersen posted their 67s at Massareene, with Maguire and Hall recording their 68s at Galgorm. It was a bit of a rocky start for Maguire, where her first 13 holes included an eagle on No. 3, four birdies and four bogeys, but it was the three-straight birdies in her closing holes that sealed a satisfactory end to day one in Northern Ireland.
“Never ideal when you hit your first tee shot out of bounds, but have done well. Didn't hit the ball particularly well today well off the tee. Few dropped shots but putted really nice to keep myself in there,” said Maguire, who became the first player from Ireland to win on the LPGA Tour earlier this season. “Yeah, always nice to finish with three birdies in the end.”
Hall, who played alongside Maguire, also eagled No. 3, and carded four birdies and one bogey to end her first round in contention. The Englishwoman, who finished in a tie for 14th last year in the tri-sanctioned event, has not missed a cut on Tour since the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, and has already earned a win on the Ladies European Tour this season at the Aramco Saudi Ladies Interntional in March. “Lots of golf left to be played,” said Hall, “but obviously a solid start and hopefully carry that into tomorrow.”
Seven players sit in a tie for sixth including LPGA Tour rookie Kaitlyn Papp and Manon De Roey, who sits third on the LET’s Race to Costa del Sol. Swedes Maja Stark and Scandinavian Mixed winner Linn Grant are among those tied for 13th. Defending champion Pajaree Anannarukarn is in a tie for 30th after carding a 1-under 70. On the men’s side, Scotland’s Ewan Ferguson opened with a 9-under 61 that included two eagles to take a commanding four-stroke lead heading into Friday.