Saturday July 31, 2021

Belfast Telegraph

By Adam McKendry

Tom McKibbin insisted he was glad to get his second round over and have his place in the third round of the ISPS HANDA World Invitational secured as he leads the local charge at Galgorm.

The highlight of the 18-year-old’s round was a chip-in eagle at the par-five 10th, and he added two birdies and three bogeys around that for a one-under 69 to leave him four-under for the week, seven off the lead.

Prior to this, McKibbin hadn’t made the cut at any event at Galgorm in four attempts, with the Holywood man admitting he was delighted to finally have a Saturday tee time on home soil.

“It wasn’t playing easy, the wind was very strong and a lot of the hard holes were all playing into the wind which was tricky,” revealed McKibbin.

“Just had to stand up and hit good shots. Grinded it out and hit some lovely shots when I had to, which was pleasing.

“I’m feeling nice to have made it through to the weekend. The swing feels a little off, just hitting a few blocks so I need to iron that out a bit. I’ll work on that and hopefully play a bit better tomorrow, make it a little less stressful.”

Elsewhere, Ballymena man Dermot McElroy had a big day at Massereene as he started with a double-bogey but finished with four straight birdies to haul himself back above the cut mark with a four-under 66 that has him two-under for the tournament.

The 28-year-old took a six at his opening hole to fall back to four-over, but he produced an incredible stretch to close to make it into the draw for the weekend.

Newcastle’s Simon Thornton is the only other local player in for the weekend on the men’s side of the draw as he rattled in three birdies and one bogey in a 68 at Massereene to sit alongside McElroy at two-under.

However, there was disappointment for Jonathan Caldwell as he found the water at the 18th at Galgorm which led to a closing double-bogey as he finished at three-over and missed the level-par cut by three, and also for Michael Hoey as he dropped three shots on his inward nine at Massereene to miss by one.

Joshua Hill shot 70 at Massereene but missed out at five-over, while fellow Galgorm amateur Michael Reid was nine-over with Cormac Sharvin seven-over.

Meanwhile, Olivia Mehaffey has admitted she’s loving every second of professional life after ensuring she’ll be around for today’s third round at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational at Galgorm.

The Tandragee woman backed up her 70 at Galgorm on Thursday with just one birdie and one bogey in a level-par 72 at Massereene on Friday to reach the weekend at three-under — with the cut falling at level-par — although she is already 10 shots adrift of leader Emma Talley.

But in her first LPGA Tour start Mehaffey is showing off her talent with some dazzling play on both days, and she will now have her sights set on making today’s second cut, which reduces both fields down to the top-30 for tomorrow’s final round.

Whether she does or not is irrelevant, however, as the 23-year-old is simply loving the experience of teeing it up alongside some of the world’s best and insists she will continue to enjoy it, no matter how the tournament ultimately pans out.

“I love this game and I’m very passionate about it. Since I was six years old I’ve wanted this, so I’m telling myself to really enjoy it and truly generally enjoy every single moment,” she smiled.

“It doesn’t feel like work so far. I’m just loving being out there. I know there’s good days and there’s bad days ahead, and just kind of take it all in, learn while you can and enjoy the good moments while you get them.

“But I’m excited for the future. I feel like my game has been trending nicely the past few years. I’ve had a very good amateur career, and it’s been a while coming.”

One person Mehaffey has had a positive effect on is playing partner Chella Choi, who is three shots back of Talley going into the weekend at 10-under.

The Korean said after the first round that she believed Mehaffey was bringing her some Irish luck, and added after a three-under 69 in her second round at Massereene that she has loved watching the former Arizona State college star play.

“I really enjoy it because she plays so good and she knows how (to play), so yesterday I followed her tee shot. Her short game is really good, so I enjoy watching her play,” praised Choi.

“She’s trying to (qualify from) Q-School this year, so I give a lot of luck to her.”

(Photo: Getty Images)