Former English Amateur champion Clements hits front on Challenge Tour

ESSEX’S Todd Clements holds a one-shot lead after the weather-delayed second round of the Challenge Tour’s innovative ISPS Handa World Invitational with a separate men and women’s tournament being staged side by side for the first time in Europe.

Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow (pictured) and Manon De Roey are leading the way in the women’s section of the innovative tournament presented by Modest! Golf Management, being staged in Northern Ireland.

In a race to finish his round before nightfall, Clements posted four birdies in his opening nine holes at Galgorm Castle Golf Club before defying the challenging scoring conditions to come back in level par

That secured his place at the top of the leaderboard for the first time in the 2017 English Amateur Champion’s short professional career on seven-under.

Clements said: “I’ve played great over the last couple of days. The putts have been dropping and it’s the first time I’ve been out in the lead over the weekend.

“So it’s a new experience and I’m just going to learn,” said the Braintree GC member, who is coached by Surrey’s former teenage prodigy Zane Scotland.

“It’s been tricky with the weather, as everyone knows,” added Todd, who won the English Amateur title at The Berkshire two years ago.

“With the suspensions you’ve just got to stay patient and it’s a mental battle more than anything else for me.

“It’s wet, it’s soft and it plays to my strengths, which is great,’ said Clements.

“It was a bit of a rush at the end to get in before it got too dark. I had a six-footer for par on the last and it horseshoed on me.

“Will I regret that over the weekend? Who knows.

“I’m just going to keep learning, keep doing what I’m doing, it’s the same strategy and hopefully it all comes together for me.”

Despite bogeying his final hole, the 22-year-old will begin his third round at Galgorm Castle with a narrow advantage over four players.

That includes Scotland’s two-time European Challenge Tour winner Calum Hill, Spaniard Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez, Somerset’s Laurie Canter and Italy’s Francesco Laporta, who sit one shot back on six-under.

Canter, the winner of both the South African Strokeplay and Spanish Amateur titles, said: “Honestly, I had so much fun out there today.

“It’s been a tough few years where I’ve been struggling to find my game, so it’s great to be back in contention again.

“I wasn’t really thinking about too much out there. I’ve come into this event off the back of a three-week break and a trip to Ibiza and instead of getting bogged down in my thought process I just went and played golf.

“It was just really fun to be playing like that again and hoping for more of the same tomorrow,” added Canter, who is attached to Cumberwell Park, in Wiltshire and also won the Hampshire Hog at North Hants, and the West of England Strokeplay, as an amateur.

With nearly four inches of rain falling on the two co-hosting venues, Galgorm Castle and Massereene Golf Club, overnight and howling wind making for tough conditions, local star Meadow demonstrated why she is touted as one of Europe’s best talents with a two-under 70.

Meadow jumped ahead of overnight leader Ellie Givens, from Darlington, into a share of the top spot at the halfway stage on four-under.

Meadow, who represented Ireland in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, said: “My front nine definitely felt pretty tough.

“The wind was howling out there and the greens were a little firmer than I’d expected given how much rain we’d had so that was a bit of a learning curve throughout the round,” said Stephanie, who turned pro in 2014.

“The greens are rolling almost exactly the same at both venues so good job to the green staff for preparing the course that way.

“I’ve been close the last couple of days to doing something really nice, so I’m just going to go out tomorrow and keep doing more of the same stuff.

“It’s fantastic to be back in Northern Ireland, it’s actually my first professional event at home and the first tournament I’ve played in Ireland since 2013,” said Meadow who played in two Curtis Cups in 2012 and 2014.

“I can’t tell you how much it means for all these people to come out and watch me.

“I make a putt and there’s lots of claps and the lots of hugs at the end and just genuine joy from people to see me out here competing,” added the former University of Alabama golfer.

“It doesn’t matter if I win or don’t win they’re behind me so it’s very special and I’m very touched,” added Meadow, who secured his first win on the Symetra Tour in the USA, last year.

The Northern Irish player is joined at the summit of the leaderboard by De Roey, who added a one-under 71 to her opening round of 70 for a four -under total.

De Roey is looking to add the ISPSA Handa title to the LET Access Tour title she clinched earlier in the summer.

The pair are one-shot clear of a seven-strong chasing pack which includes former World No. 1 amateur Leona Maguire, first-round leader Givens and Middlesex golfing legend Trish Johnson.

It was another day to remember for the Irish amateurs in the field, with Lauren Walsh carding a one-under par 72 at Galgorm Castle to head into the weekend of her first professional event just one shot off the lead.

Irish amateur Annabel Wilson said: “I’m not fazed by much, I made one poor swing off the first tee which led to a double.

“But I hit a lovely shot into two and then just moved on and didn’t think too much more about it.

“That’s just golf, it’s why you love it. My short game was great. I actually had chipped-in twice which is always helpful.

“I’m not much of a leaderboard watcher, maybe I’ll have a quick look tonight especially for the draw tomorrow and see who I might be playing with.

“It’s cool that Charley Hull is playing this week. We were on opposite ends of the draw so I haven’t seen her yet, I’d like to see her hit a ball before the end of the week.”

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Josh Hill showed plenty of guts as he fired a three-under par 67 at Massereene Golf Club, to sit in a share of 11th place.

That ensured Hill will contest the weekend at his home club alongside the stars of the European Challenge Tour.

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Meanwhile, 16-year-old Josh Hill showed plenty of guts as he fired a three-under par 67 at Massereene Golf Club, to sit in a share of 11th place.

That ensure Hill will contest the weekend at his home club alongside the stars of the European Challenge Tour.

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