Atkinson stages an ambush


GOLF: Claire Coughlan's quest to claim the Lancome Irish Women's Close championship title on home terrain ended in the first round of matchplay at Cork Golf Club yesterday when she was dramatically beaten by Woodbrook's Sandra Atkinson, the last qualifier to make it into the knock-out stages.

In a major upset, Atkinson, who last qualified for the matchplay phase back in 1995, the last occasion the event was held at Little Island, beat Coughlan 2 and 1. Coughlan, the leading qualifier and a member of the host club, actually led by one hole after seven holes of their duel, only for Atkinson to win the next five holes in level par and turn a deficit into a four-hole lead.

Although Coughlan had a mini-fightback and won the 13th and 14th, she relinquished the initiative when taking two shots to extricate herself from a bunker in losing the 15th to go three down.

Coughlan, the winner of the title in 1999, won the 16th after her opponent drove into trees and must have felt that she could further prolong the battle when holing a 20-footer for birdie on the 17th, only to see Atkinson follow her in from 15 feet.

Alison Coffey, the champion of the past two years, had a comfortable 3 and 2 win over Amy Duggan, while Martina Gillen, Eileen Rose Power and Rebecca Coakley were also impressive winners.

FIRST ROUND S Atkinson (Woodbrook) bt C Coughlan (Cork) 2 and 1, M Riordan (Tipperary) bt G O' Leary (Cork) 4 and 3, U Marsden (Tullamore) bt K MacCann (Douglas) 2 and 1, T Mangan (Ennis) bt S Hayes (Hermitage) 4 and 3, S Keane (Curragh) bt A Burke (Charleville) 5 and 4, M Dunne (Skerries) bt M Dowling (New Ross) 2 and 1, H Nolan (Shannon) bt S Philips (Woodbrook) on 20th, A Coffey (Warrenpoint) bt A Duggan (Killarney) 3 and 2, M Gillen (Beaverstown) bt D Judge (Roscommon) 6 and 5, M Sheehy (Tralee) bt Jr Gannon (Co Louth) 5 and 4, M Morrin (Curragh) bt M McKenna (Donabate) by 1 hole, D Smith (Co Louth) bt D McGowan (Ballybofey/Stran) 2 and 1, P Doran (Donabate) bt E Dickson (Royal Co Down) 4 and 3, S Corcoran (Portumna) bt M Holmes (Enniscrone) 2 and 1, ER Power (Kilkenny) bt B McLarnon (Fortwilliam) 6 and 5, R Coakley (Carlow) bt S Galvin (Limerick) 4 and 3 Ita Wallace Trophy - First Round: J Cronin (Killarney) bt E MacMullan (Donegal) 19th, S Gallagher (Claremorris) bt J Quinn (Co. Louth) 4 and 3, A Thompson (Douglas) bt C Smyth (Massereene) 5 and 3, C Tucker (Limerick) bt V Hassett (Ennis) 2 and 1, L Browne (Courtown) bt M Hayes (Tralee) 4 and 3, M Abernethy (Grange) bt D Prendergast (Killarney) by 1 hole, S Heraty (Castle) bt V McWilliams (Holywood) 3 and 2, S O' Sullivan (Galway) bt A Kingston (Bandon) 6 and 5, Second Round: Sarah Gallagher (Claremorris) bt Joanne Cronin (Killarney) 5 and 4, Ailish Thompson (Douglas) bt Catherine Tucker (Limerick) 4 and 2, Lorna Browne (Courtown) bt Miriam Abernethy (Grange) on 19th, Sinead O'Sullivan (Galway) bt Sinead Heraty (Castle) on 19th.