Leona Maguire’s ‘stress-free’ 65 earns share of first round lead in Michigan

Irish golfer keeps up fine form in opening round of the LPGA Meijer Classic

"A pretty stress-free Thursday," is how Leona Maguire described her opening round of the LPGA Meijer Classic at Grand Rapids in Michigan where a bogey-free opening round seven-under-par 65 saw the in-form Co Cavan golfer claim a share of the first round lead.

With three top-10s so far this season, Maguire – who has risen from 177th in the world rankings at the start of the year to her current 88th – maintained the momentum of her tied-9th finish in last week’s Mediheal Championship to again get straight into the mix with some stellar iron play and good putting.

“It was a pretty quick turnaround from last week in San Francisco. I felt like my game was in nice shape and it was just a case of seeing the golf course the last few days and trying to rest up and start this week afresh and try and pick up where I left off,” said Maguire.

Maguire's birdie haul started immediately at the first and she added further birdies on the fourth, seventh, eighth, 10th, 14th and finished as she started with another on the 18th to move into a share of the lead with Japan's Nasa Hataoka, England's Charley Hull and American Lauren Stephenson.

Technically still in her rookie season after that category was voided last year due to Covid, Maguire is playing a number of courses for the first time. However, there was a familiar feel about Blythefield Country Club: "It's very similar to the courses we get in Dublin, like Hermitage and Elm Park, ones I would've grown up playing junior golf. It's nice when you have that familiar ID, even though it's a new place," said Maguire, who has had the guidance of veteran caddie Dermot Byrne on her bag for the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, Co Down teenager Beth Coulter led the 36-holes strokeplay qualifying in the AIG Women's Irish Close Championship on the Old Course at Ballybunion in Co Kerry where a fresh wind made for tough scoring conditions.

Coulter, a member of Kirkistown Castle, who recently reached the last 32 of the British Women’s Amateur and captured the Royal Portrush Scratch Cup last week, maintained that strong from with rounds of 73 and 79 for 152 to claim medallist honours.

Coulter finished a shot clear of Lahinch's Aine Donegan with former champion Sara Byrne and the home club's Emma O'Driscoll a shot further back. The leading 32 players from stroke play qualifying progress onto the match play phase, which concludes with the final on Sunday.

First round scores from the Meijer LPGA Classic (USA unless stated, Par 72)

65 Nasa Hataoka (Jpn), Charley Hull (Eng), Leona Maguire (Irl), Lauren Stephenson

66 Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), Min Lee (Tai)

67 Gabriela Ruffels (Aus), Su-Hyun Oh (Aus), Marina Alex, Chella Choi (Kor), Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Amy Olson, Sarah Schmelzel, Xiyu Lin (Chn), Pajaree Anannarukarn (Tha), Sophia Popov (Ger), Alison Lee

68 Nelly Korda, Alexis Thompson, Lizette Salas, Brittany Altomare, Jessica Korda, Moriya Jutanugarn (Tha), Ind-Bee Park (Kor), Megan Khang, Ally Ewing, Jennifer Kupcho, Gaby Lopez (Mex), Georgia Hall (Eng), Ind-Gee Chun (Kor), Madelene Sagstroem (Swe), Christina Kim, Giulia Molinaro (Ita), Lindy Duncan, Mina Harigae, Esther Henseleit (Ger), Sarah Burnham

69 Jin-Young Ko (Kor), Mi-Jung Hur (Kor), Carlota Ciganda (Spa), Caroline Masson (Ger), Ashleigh Buhai (Rsa), Jodi Ewart (Eng), Austin Ernst, Cristie Kerr, Esther Lee, Jeong-Eun Lee (Kor), Dana Finkelstein

70 Laura Davies (Eng), Hannah Green (Aus), Brittany Lincicome, Alena Sharp (Can), Katherine Kirk (Aus), Gerina Piller, Cydney Clanton, Brittany Lang, Albane Valenzuela (Swi), Wichanee Meechai (Tha), Marissa Steen, Jennifer Chang, Ssu-Chia Cheng (Tai), Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul (Tha), Nam-Yeon Choi (Kor), Klara Spilkova (Cze), Muni He (Chn), Bianca Pagdanganan (Phi), Lee Lopez, Janie Jackson, Samantha Troyanovich, Clariss Guce (Phi)

71 Juli Inkster, Lydia Ko (Nzl), In-Kyung Kim (Kor), Stacy Lewis, Cheyenne Knight, Maria Torres (Pur), Jennifer Coleman, Elizabeth Szokol, Perrine Delacour (Fra), Jennifer Song, Ruixin Liu (Chn), Dottie Ardina (Phi), Lauren Coughlin, Ji-Won Jeon (Kor), Min-Seo Kwak (Kor)

72 Kris Tamulis, Valery Plata (Col), Sung-Hyun Park (Kor), Angel Yin, Azahara Munoz (Spa), Thidapa Suwannapura (Tha), Mi-Rim Lee (Kor), Pornanong Phatlum (Tha), A-Lim Kim (Kor), Pavarisa Yoktuan (Tha), Linnea Stroem (Swe), Benyapa Niphatsophon (Tha), Daniela Holmqvist (Swe), Kelly Tan (Mal), Kyung Kim, Elizabeth Nagel, Jaclyn Lee (Can)

73 Jeon-Geun Lee (Kor), Bronte Law (Eng), Mo Martin, Kristen Gillman, Annie Park, Sarah Jane Smith (Aus), Tiffany Joh, Jane Park, Sarah Kemp (Aus), Hae-Ji Kang (Kor), Jillian Hollis, Paula Creamer, Tiffany Chan (Hkg), Daniela Darquea (Ecu), Stephanie Meadow (NIrl), Mariah Stackhouse, Lindsey Weaver, Andrea Lee, Haley Moore, Alana Uriell

74 Ryann O’Toole, Ayako Uehara (Jpn), Luna Sobron (Spa), Ana Belac (Slo), Brianna Do

75 Brooke Henderson (Can), Jing Yan (Chn), Caroline Inglis, Pernilla Lindberg (Swe), Julieta Granada (Pry), Maria Fassi (Mex), Louise Ridderstroem (Swe)

76 Jaye Marie Green, Anne van Dam (Ned), Yealimi Noh, Paula Reto (Rsa), Emma Talley

77 Yani Tseng (Tai), Aditi Ashok (Ind)

78 Kristy McPherson, Maia Schechter

Leading AIG Irish Women’s Close scores at Ballybunion Old Course

152 Beth Coulter (Kirkistown Castle) 73 79

153 Aine Donegan (Lahinch) 77 76

154 Sara Byrne (Douglas) 76 78, Emma O'Driscoll (Ballybunion)

156 Caitlin Shippam (Limerick) 82 74

157 Kate Lanigan (Hermitage) 81 76

159 Mairead Martin (Kanturk) 82 77, Rachel Thompson (Cork) 81 78, Valerie Clancy (Killarney) 80 79

160 Olivia Costello (Roscommon) 80 80