STEPHANIE Meadow is in pole position to secure an emotional victory on home soil as she takes a four-stroke lead into the final day of the ISPS Handa World Invitational Men | Women, at Galgorm Castle Golf Club.
Northern Ireland’s US-based Symetra Tour winner posted a sublime six-under par round of 67 to reach a total of 10-under in Ballymena.
Meadow, who played in two Curtis Cups against America as an amateur before turning pro in 2014, said: “I played really nicely today.
“It was nice that we got to finish too as I wasn’t looking forward to a 7am restart tomorrow morning.
“I had a lot of birdies and three on the bounce on the back nine. I just hit some really solid shots and made some putts today. I made a couple of long ones, which you have to do when you shoot low.
“I kind of felt this was coming the way I’ve been playing the last couple of days. I’ve been playing well and a few putts have just been slipping by the hole and today they went in.
“It’s great to see people out watching. Lots of people from Ballyclare were here today. People I grew up playing junior golf with were all here today and that was really nice.
“I wasn’t super nervous or anything, just trying to take it in and enjoy it because I’ll not be able to compete at home very often. It’s a home game and I’ll just enjoy it.”
Torrential rain caused an hour-and-a-half delay and therefore caused Meadow’s tee time – the final group of the day – to be pushed back to 3.40pm.
In the men’s tournament, presented by One Direction star Nial Horan’s Modest! Golf Management group, second round leader Todd Clements and France’s Damien Perrier share a one-shot lead on nine-under ahead of Italy’s Francesco Laporta and Lancashire’s Jack Senior.
Perrier recorded a four-under 66, which included a bogey-free back nine whre he picked up three shots, to set the target at nine-under.
Then Essex’s 2017 English Amateur Champion Clements finished with back-to-back gains to join the 2016 D+D REAL Czech Challenge Champion at the top of the leaderboard.
Clements, who is coached by former Euorpean Tour player Zane Scotland, admitted: “The front nine was brutal.
“Laurie Canter said on the sixth tee that the course was playing a bit differently to how it has been, and he was right.
“I hung in there and kept doing my thing and it’s going alright so far,” added the former England amateur international, who won the national championship at The Berkshire two years ago.
“I hit a great shot into five and made two. I had 195 yards and hit a six-iron and I made two and it really settled me.
“It put me into my comfort zone and I just pressed on from there,” added the Braintree Golf Club member.
“I didn’t hit the putt on the last how I wanted to, and it looked good but just fell a bit short of pace. I took four, especially as it was nearly dark.
“I’m just going to rest, get some later dinner, rest in the morning and try and do exactly what I did today.”
Perrier said: “I’m very pleased with the score I have. It was a tough day again.
“We’ve had a lot of long days this week due to the weather delays and it takes a lot of energy.
“It’s not easy because you have to stay focused and this course is, in my opinion, a course where you really have to take it shot by shot.
“The fact that it is tough helps me in the end because you have to focus on playing shot by shot.
“I like to play with guys who are high in the rankings like Calum Hill and Francesco Laporta, it is more motivating for me.
“There is a bit of pressure because I have not been in this position for a while.
“I know my game, I know my ability and there will be some guys chasing tomorrow and I have to do a good job to keep them at bay,” Perrier added.
After a two-and-a-half hour delay hampered the start of the second round, day three began as planned at Galgorm.
But a heavy 20-minute downpour just before 1pm caused a delay and the afternoon groups were forced to deal with extremely wet fairways and greens, which the tournament administration team and greenkeeping staff did well to keep in a playable condition.
First round leader Ellie Givens is the woman best-placed to catch Meadow after a three-under par 70 in the third round saw her reach six-under overall.
That was one shot ahead of Charley Hull, Olivia Cowan, Laura Fuenfstueck and another Irish favourite in former Curtis Cup player Leona Maguire, whose twin sister Lisa missed the cut.
Charley Hull has moved steadily up the leaderboard after a disappointing first day despite playing poorly by the Solheim Cup players’ standards.
Hull, from Kettering, who will face the Ameircans at Gleneagles next month, said: “I’m still hitting it really, really bad, but I managed to stay well in the game with my putting.
“I feel like I’ve had a long three weeks and I’ve been hitting it so well lately.
“I played well at the Evian Championship and Scottish. During the Scottish we got super bad weather – they were the windiest conditions I’ve ever played in and I think it’s knocked my swing out a bit.
“Then coming into this week I’ve been quite tired because I’ve been so busy.
“Today I just hit it so bad but managed to make a score. I only hit 10 greens but still had nine birdies.
“Days like this you rely on the short game and your putting,” Hull added.
History will be made in Ballymena on Sunday as a man and a woman will be crowned Champions of the inaugural ISPS Handa World Invitational.
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