LPGA Tour rookie Amanda Doherty posted a 6-under-par 67 at Galgorm Castle Golf Club to take the first-round lead at the ISPS Handa World Invitational on Thursday at Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Doherty's seven birdies helped her take a slight edge over four players at 5 under par after one round ofthe unique multi-course event.
For the first two days, golfers will play one round at Galgorm Castle and one at Massereene Golf Club before the 36-hole cut. Galgorm Castle will host the final two rounds, with a second cut coming after 54 holes.
The event is tri-sanctioned by the LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and DP World Tour. A field of 132 men are also playing on the same courses, and the men and women are competing for identical purses of $1.5 million.
Doherty has a one-shot edge over Lauren Coughlin and Denmark's Emily Kristine Pedersen, who both shot 5-under 67 at Massereene, as well as England's Georgia Hall and Ireland's Leona Maguire, who shot 5-under 68 at Galgorm Castle.
The 24-year-old Doherty has yet to have a top-10 finish on tour, let alone a victory.
"I was really just trying to stay in the moment today, and I feel like I was just kind of in that mindset starting the day," Doherty said. "I stayed there and I stayed patient. I know it's kind of cliche, but it works."
Now she'll have to get ready for the switch to Massereene before heading back to Galgorm Castle for the latter rounds.
"You don't often get to play two courses, so it's definitely interesting," she said. "Totally new game plan tomorrow."
Spectators on the Emerald Isle will be eager to follow Maguire, who is 17th in the Rolex Ranking and coming off a good showing during major season.
Maguire rode a roller coaster during Thursday's round. After opening with a bogey at the par-5 first, she eagled the par-5 third. Four birdies and three more bogeys brought her to 2 under through 15, and she finished strong with a run of three birdies.
"I don't get to play at home very often, so it's nice to be back here," said Maguire, whose twin sister Lisa is carrying her bag this week. "The course is in great shape. The weather is as nice as we could have possibly hoped. All in all it's been good week and nice to start with a good round."
Those who started at Massereene, like Pedersen (one eagle, five birdies, two bogeys) have the advantage of focusing on Galgorm for the rest of the way.
"It's going to be nice playing the same course obviously from now on," Pedersen said. "That's just going to be the focus, is that one. ... My head has been a bit confused the last two days and I've been mixing up some of the holes."
--Field Level Media