Stephanie Meadow from Jordanstown is three shots off the lead after the opening day of the World Invitational at Galgorm Castle and Massereene.
England’s Eleanor Givens leads on six under from American Beth Allen and Germany’s Karolin Lampert, who are two shots clear of Silvia Banon, Manon de Roey, Annabel Dimmock, with local star Meadow on three under par.
After carding a 70 at Galgorm, Meadow said: “I started well and was then a little shaky in the middle, but battled back towards the end. I hit a lot of good putts but nothing really fell.
2Overall it’s a decent start. I was a little nervous on the first tee, more emotional than anything. I want to play well and give everybody a show who came to support me,” she added.
“[It is a] great event so far. I enjoy being with the men, we do the same thing week in, week out, 25 weeks a year, so to see some new faces and even hear the sound on the driving range of the guys hitting is a little strange. It’s nice, it’s a good change.”
First round leader Givens revealed she was playing with new clubs and was ‘really pleased’ with her performance.
“I’m really pleased with how I played today,” she said.
“I played really solid golf and was really happy with how it was. It’s actually my first time playing with some new clubs I have so it was nice to start with that and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.
“It’s actually been really nice weather and the greens are rolling really nicely so there’s definitely a score out there to be had.
“I had a little bit of a slow patch towards the end of my first nine holes but then played really well on the back nine,” Givens added.
“There’s some interesting weather coming our way. We played in some interesting weather last week in Scotland as well so I’ve had a lot of practice recently and I’d rather play in sunshine, but will see what comes.”
Craig Ross, from Scotland, carded a six under par 64 at Massereene Golf Club to lead the men’s event.
His superb bogey-free 64 set the pace ahead of England’s Richard Mansell and Frenchman Gary Stal on five under par, while Calum Hill, who has won twice in his last three starts is a shot further back among the pack on four under par. Hill was the of last year’s NI Open.
Ross said: “It was great to put a 64 together today. I’ve had some poor performances to start the season, so it’s nice to be able to put a strong score together out there today.
“I was missing a few greens early on but made some good up-and-downs over my opening nine and then on the closing nine I was just able to slot in some birdie putts and it was obviously great to finish with five birdies in the last six holes.
“I was expecting the scores to be a lot lower, especially looking at the results in the Northern Ireland Open in the past, so I was little surprised to see that four under was leading after the morning although this course is a little tricky to master because the two nines play quite differently.”
With heavy rain curtailing the Pro-Am on Wednesday, both courses were wet underfoot early on day one, with the majority of the low scorers playing later in the day.
The highly-anticipated tournament has an innovative approach - encompassing separate men’s and women’s events with equal prize money (£207,000).