Beth Coulter shines as seeds dominate Irish Women’s Close Championship

Jan Browne springs an upset as 15 of the 16 seeded players progress at Ballybunion

Seeded players dominated at Ballybunion on Friday. Photograph: Tom Honan/Inpho

Seeded players dominated at Ballybunion on Friday. Photograph: Tom Honan/Inpho

 

Multi-talented sporting teenager Beth Coulter - who won the Irish Girls’ title in 2019 and has also claimed a couple of underage All-Ireland club camogie successes - followed up her strokeplay medalist honours to advance in the matchplay phase of the AIG Irish Women’s Close Championship over the Old Course at Ballybunion.

The top-seeded 17-year-old Co Down golfer progressed to the last-16 stage with a 2 and 1 win over another Ulster teenager, Foyle’s Hannah Lee McNamara, on a day when the seeding largely worked out to expectations with 15 of 16 seeded players moving on. Jan Browne was the one to upset the seedings in defeating Harrington scholar Clodagh Walsh.

Arguably the most impressive performance of all came from Sara Byrne, the Douglas member who is on a scholarship to university in Miami. Winner of the national title in 2019, Byrne was a 7 and 6 winner over Lauren Murray and the Corkwoman was delighted to have finished the match on the 12th green in order to conserve energy.

“The legs are a bit sore (after 36 holes strokeplay qualifying on Thursday). This week will be mentally and physically draining, so I’m delighted to (finish early) and get ready (for potentially two rounds of matchplay on Saturday,” said Byrne, who recovered from a shaky start with a couple of birdies and an eagle to take control.

Cork’s Rachel Thompson, another of those players on scholarship stateside, at the University of Tennessee, was required to go into sudden death to overcome Lauren Murray. “It was actually good to get a match going down 19th and feel that pressure, I didn’t mind going into extra holes and getting the adrenaline pumping,” observed the Irish international.

A couple of players used local knowledge to great effect. Emma O’Driscoll beat Aoife Ni Thuama on the 15th to set up a last-16 encounter with Katie Poots, while Mairead Martain - a former member of Ballybunion but these days playing out of Kanturk - progressed with a 2 and 1 win over Hannah Guerin. “I’m playing it day by day. It’s great to be back on a course that I know and I’m excited to see what the weekend holds,” said Martin.

A further indication of the great talent arriving on the national scene was the continued advancement of Olivia Costello, as the 13-year-old Roscommon player beat Mary Sheehy who faces Martin in the second round of matchplay.

1st Round Matchplay

Beth Coulter (Kirkistown Castle) bt Hannah Lee McNamara (Foyle) 2 and 1; Emma Fleming (Elm Park) bt Anna Dawson (Tramore) 3 and 2; Rachel Thompson (Cork) bt Lauren Murray (Woodbrook) at 19th; Valerie Clancy (Killarney) bt Kate Dillon (Oughterard) 5 and 3; Sara Byrne (Douglas) bt Lauren Kelly (Ballykisteen) 7 and 6; Jan Browne (Kilkenny) bt Clodagh Walsh (Castlewarden) 2 and 1; Caitlin Shippam (Ballykisteen) bt Niamh O’Dwyer (Lahinch) 1 hole; Shannon Burke (Ballinrobe) bt Corrina Griffin (Killarney) 1 hole; Aine Donegan (Lahinch) bt Vicki Conlon (Enniscrone) 5 and 3; Deirdre Smith (Co Louth) bt Kate Dwyer (Rossmore) 2 and 1; Mairead Martin (Kanturk) bt Hannah Guerin (Royal Tara) 2 and 1; Olivia Costello (Roscommon) bt Mary Sheehy (Tralee) 3 and 2; Emma O’Driscoll (Ballybunion) bt Aoife Ni Thuama (Douglas) 5 and 3; Katie Poots (Knock) bt Rebekah Gardner (Clandeboye) 2 and 1; Kate Lanigan (Hermitage) bt Paula Walsh (Doneraile) 2 and 1; Anna Foster (Elm Park) bt Clodagh Coughlan (Douglas) 3 and 2.

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