Women’s Irish Open: Long-hitting Anne van Dam takes commanding lead

Special pursuit from Leona Maguire required on Sunday to lift title as she is eight strokes behind

Anne van Dam took matters into her own hands in the third round of the KPMG Women’s Irish Open at Dromoland Castle where the 27-year-old Dutchwoman, a phenomenally long-hitter off the tee, with drives averaging close to 290 yards, shot a 66 for a 54-hole total of 15-under-par 201 to claim a three-strokes lead over closest pursuer Lisa Pettersson of Sweden.

In effect, van Dam took control of her own destiny.

For others, among them Leona Maguire, the pursuit will require something special in the last round and, you suspect, a helping hand too.

Maguire, the world number 17 and with her sights on the Solheim Cup in just three weeks time, shot a third round 69 for a seven-under-par 209, eight shots adrift of van Dam. In tied-15th position, the number of shots to be made up by Maguire and also the number of players in between her and the flying leader would make it a big ask.


“I didn’t have my A-game at all,” admitted Maguire. “So I’ve made a lot of good saves, a lot of good up and downs to keep me in it, but it’s just one of those weeks. It’s all just been a bit off this week. I kind of hung in as well as I can. I’ll just try and go one better tomorrow.”

Maguire had picked up one birdie on the front nine (at the par 3 seventh) to turn in 34 and added further birdies at the 11th, 15th and 16th before suffering her only bogey on the par 5 18th where her approach from 100 yards spun back off the green and she failed to get up and down, missing from four feet for a disappointing finish.

“It would have been nice to shoot a few better but we will have another go tomorrow and see what happens,” said Maguire.

Olivia Mehaffey shot a 72 for 212 (in tied-30th), while amateurs Beth Coulter (69 for 214) and Sara Byrne (72 for 214) were in tied-42nd and Kate Lanigan (who birdied her four closing holes for a 74 for 215) in tied-51st. Emma Fleming’s 76 for 221 left her in tied-68th.

Mehaffey – currently 63rd in the Race to Del Sol order of merit (with the top-70 at the end of the season securing full LET cards for next season – can consolidate that goal with a decent finish.

“There’s always more than winning. And of course, you come into every week, and you want to win. And I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress this week, which has been nice. And it would just be nice to finish the week off in a nice way tomorrow. And that’s the thing with professional golf. It’s not like win or nothing, you know, it’s every single spot you finish higher, you get more ranking points, you win more money. So that’s the thing with professional golf. So I’ll go out tomorrow and try and go as low as I can and see what happens,” said Mehaffey.

Van Dam, a five-time winner on the LET, but without a win since lifting the Andalucia Costa del Sol Spanish Open in 2019, played great golf – seven birdies and a bogey, including claiming three of those birdies in her closing four holes – to open up a three shots lead over Pettersson with Alice Hewson and Diksha Dagar a shot further back in tied-third.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times